Joe Cokanasiga, England’s juggernaut wing, has admitted to battling nerves ahead of his Rugby World Cup debut next week, writes Alex Spink in Miyazaki .
The Fijian-born star marked his most recent England start with two trademark defence-shredding tries against Ireland. He now has five in six starts and is among the favourites to finish top try scorer in the upcoming tournament.
Yet ahead of England’s opener against Tonga on Sunday week the 21-year-old confessed: “Sometimes I question myself whether I can do it.
“I get quite nervous playing against the big teams. Obviously I hate being nervous but it shows that you do care.”
Cokanasiga has made huge strides since his false start in Argentina two years ago when, in Jones’ words, “he couldn’t do a training session”.
Big Joe admitted: “On that tour I got shocked about what I needed to do. I was quite immature at the time. I assumed everything would come to me; I wouldn’t need to work hard for it to happen.
“After Argentina, I sorted myself out. If I really wanted to play for England there was stuff that I needed to change, mentality wise in particular, and take rugby more seriously.”
Cokanasiga has stayed true to his word and made such progress that the only surprise is he struggles with anxiety ahead of kick-off.
“But once that whistle goes something goes and you think ‘I’m here for a reason so try to show it’,” he interjected. “Once I’m in the game I’m back to my normal self and I just try to do what I do.”
Cokanasiga’s hopes of seeing early action have been improved by wing rival Jack Nowell’s run of bad luck, first requiring ankle surgery then hospital treatment to have his appendix removed.
Wales lock Adam Beard suffered the same fate on Wednesday when admitted to have his appendix taken out. The 23-year-old will not now link up with Warren Gatland’s squad in Japan until early next week.
But at least he gets to go to the tournament. New Zealand back-row Luke Jacobson had his World Cup dream ended yesterday by concussion.
He had travelled to Japan only to be diagnosed with “delayed onset” of concussion, suffered in last week’s win over Tonga, England’s first opponents a week tomorrow. Shannon Frizell takes his place.
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