Kobe - When the United States open their Rugby World Cup campaign, teenage prop David Ainu'u will be winning his ninth cap while England front-rower Dan Cole will be winning his 91st.

But Eagles coach Gary Gold has backed the 19-year-old Ainu'u - who played just 125 minutes of first-team rugby for French champions Toulouse last season - to rise to the challenge.

He is facing a renowned scrummager in Cole, who will join England great Jonny Wilkinson as his country's third-most capped player in Kobe on Thursday.

"Unquestionably, David has improved," Gold told reporters at the Kobe Misaki Stadium on Wednesday.

"Toulouse obviously had a fantastic season last year. 

"The likes of coaches like William Servat (a former France prop) have helped, along with the players that we've put around him."

The South African added: "David is a real shining light for us as a team. 

"I think he's going to have a fantastic career at Toulouse. David is one of the guys, particularly as a front row player, who could comfortably play 100 Tests for America one day. 

"He's a fantastic kid, a fantastic rugby player, a committed hard worker. I'm very excited to see him come up against the hugely experienced Dan Cole."

England scrum coach Neal Hatley said there was no way Gold would take a chance on a young player just to give them the experience of a major international. 

"I have known Gary Gold for 30 years and have coached with him and played under him and he wouldn't have put him in if he didn't think he was capable," said Hatley.

"He (Ainu'u) played against Japan and did a really good job and he will get the respect he deserves as a starting loosehead."

This match will be the first time 32-year-old Leicester front row Cole has come up against Ainu'u.

"We did our research but until you play against somebody, you don't really know," Cole said of Ainu'u on Tuesday.

"It's difficult to know from tapes."



15 Elliot Daly; 14 Ruaridh McConnochie, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Joe Cokanasiga; 10 George Ford (capt), 9 Willi Heinz; 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Tom Curry; 5 George Kruis, 4 Joe Launchbury; 3 Dan Cole, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Joe Marler

Substitutes: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Anthony Watson


15 Will Hooley, 14 Blaine Scully (captain), 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Paul Lasike, 11 Martin Iosefo, 10 AJ McGinty, 9 Shaun Davies, 8 Cam Dolan, 7 John Quill, 6 Tony Lamborn, 5 Nick Civetta, 4 Ben Landry, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Joe Taufete’e, 1 David Ainuu

Substitutes: 16 Dylan Fawsitt, 17 Olive Kilifi, 18 Paul Mullen, 19 Greg Peterson, 20 Hanco Germishuys, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Bryce Campbell, 23 Mike Teo