Rugby World Cup: England wing Joe Cokanasiga – from dancer to main event


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From Mike Henson
BBC Sport
A jump, a burst of pace, a hint of a random, a measure inside, another jag, a 40-metre canter beneath the posts – the ball clutched in one hand and four tacklers choking on fumes having got nowhere near it.
Joe Cokanasiga has scored attempts facing capacity Twickenham audiences. He scored the other two in Kobe in the 45-7 World Cup win over the United States of England.
Hes 12 back home from the Premiership.
But came on a chilly October day facing a rack and a couple of million people as a teenager.
Topsy Ojo needed a front-row seat. The wing was left to provide Cokanasiga his Championship debut.
The response on the bench was shock and amazement , he tells BBC Sport, remembering Cokanasigas stunning solo effort.
The situation he got the ball initially – inside his 22m – you would think he should clear it, but this is not actually in his mindset.
His skillset is to conduct and beat people. He just took off and 10 seconds later that he had been beneath the sticks
I recall all of us looked at each other, jaws open, likewow, that was unique.
Video of the attempt spread fast online. Just the viewers would spot the modest salute as he moves around 22, that Cokanasiga gets into the audience.
Im claiming that! Says Phil Cokanasiga, Joes younger brother, London potential and England global. I was stood next to the camerabut I understand he was pointing at me
For a lot of his life Phil had witnessed pitches and opposition defences, dividing.
I recall about 2008 or 2009, when I was eight or seven, we were playing to our college in Germany in a tag rugby tournament, Phil remembers.
We were playing a year up and I went over to watch him after I had completed my game. He had been speed, he couldnt run over people clearly, and that he was fairly good even then.
Germany was only 1 stop in the globe-trotting childhood of the pair. Their next was Brunei, the little oil-rich country perched in the South China Sea, as they followed their dad Ilaitias deployments as part of the Royal Logistical core of the British Army.
It had been there Joe started to turn his concentration from soccer – where he had been a commanding centre-back – .
Larger stronger and quicker than his teenaged peers, he was fast-tracked out of the schoolboy rugby of Brunei along with his father for club side Bandar Blacks, playing to the sport.
Bruneis teenagers might have been spared the sight of Joe thundering with ball in hand at them, but Phil was not.
The pair would play with rugby together in the backyard, recreating the Super Rugby moments they would watch on satellite television.
Phil would mimic the Waratahs Israel Folau. Joe favored the Hurricanes Julian Savea. The glimpses that the group would get of English rugby in Brunei were viral clips of fisticuffs and big hits. The pair were interested by Manu Tuilagi and Chris Ashton in May 2011.
Four years later and it was a 17-year-old Joe Cokanasigaback in England and signed up to the London Irish academy, rather making an appearance at the 2015 World Cup, albeit at a low-profile cameo.
Cokanasiga was a part of a Fijian dance troupe who played on the pitch before the opener against the Islanders of Stuart Lancasters side, posing with fans who had been unaware that a future England star was in their midst.
Joe might have left Fiji as a three-year-old, however, Ilaitia makes sure his sons remember that legacy.
Dad constantly reminds Joe when he symbolizes England, he is also a Fijian and never to forget his origins, says Phil.
He advised us back ourselves because we are extremely different to the majority of players.
A huge thing was confidence and to always think that – I know that it seems big-headed – we are the very best on the area, since it brings out the finest in us
Touchline fathers constantly tend to think their sons would be the best.
Its something once the players that had to compete against the exact identical offspring for a starting place agree.
Ojo has played with nearly 200 top-flight matches as well as lining up in among his two England appearances opposite All Black hot-stepper Sitiveni Sivivatu.
Can he recall playing with or against like Cokanasiga anybody?
I played Alessana Tuilagi a whole lot. He had been a huge physical carrier, but hed likely run straight in the beginning, Ojo said.
Then there are men like Sinoti Sinoti that have a barbarous step, but maybe not that offload threat – whereas Joe offloads like Leone Nakarawa.
That was something that stood out of me when I saw him. He could carry the ball easily in 1 hand – that wasnt something which you would teach to children and he gave an additional threat to him.
You can not go low because he will just offload. It is truly hard to get close to the ball, In the event you go high. Its a very different danger.
Growing up outside the machine helped him, gave him the ability to do anything different. I can not consider anybody who has those dangers in 1 package.
Cokanasigas opportunities might be limited at the World Cup with Jonny May and Anthony Watson recognized as Jack Nowell and choices accessible once again to go coach Eddie Jones.
But if England are up against it and also need a game-breaker, he can dance around the World Cup stage once more.
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