'He understands his best weight for his power and his size'
Away from the suffocating confines of Twickenham last Saturday where England managed just a single try from a lineout overthrow against Wales, there was a reminder 300 miles away that the firepower does exist to put on a fireworks spectacular out wide. Having scored four tries across his two summer series appearances for Eddie Jones’ national team last July, Joe Cokanasiga finally made his club comeback for Bath and his return was headline-grabbing.
Stuart Hooper bottom-of-the-table strugglers were trailing 25-16 at Kingston Park when the 24-year-old Cokanasiga stepped off the bench to score tries twelve minutes apart to transform what would have been a wounding loss into a 30-25 win. It was the Fijian-born winger’s first club outing in five months since a September pre-season game versus Cardiff because of a knee injury.
It wasn’t his first long stretch out of the game – he was previously out for eleven months – but Bath made sure Cokanasiga was kept fully motivated during his layoff and was at his best fighting weight when he did get to make his latest comeback, producing a show of scoring firepower that surely won’t escape the attentions of England when it comes to their end-of-season Australian tour if he keeps delivering for his club.
Cokanasiga has returned at 112kgs, 17st 9lbs in old currency, and Hooper was thrilled to finally have him back for Bath. “He is always somebody who is a big man so he wants to keep that physical dominance but there have been no dramatic shifts in what we want from him. He understands his best weight for his power and his size and that is what he works to all the time.
“What you will see is him both developing as a player and as a young man. He is still so young. When we have rehab which is backed up from another injury, what we try to do is change the environment, change the picture a bit to allow them to experience other things so he worked just in a few different environments, still with our guidance on his rehab and his conditioning but he saw some knee expert rehabbers and that sort of stuff.
“This allowed him to not get stale by coming into the same place every day for a long period of time. The biggest thing with Joe is that he loves playing the game. If you speak to any of the boys they all understand his physical size and his dominance and what he can do, but he brings a smile to his face when he is in that sort of form and it’s actually infectious.
“We want him to enjoy it, we want him to love being out on the field both at training and in the game and he is in that space right now,” added Hooper about a player who debuted for England in November 2018 and had eleven tries in eleven Test appearances.
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