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May impressed with giant teammate

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'He's strong and very, very fast' - May impressed with quiet giant Cokanasiga

Giant England wing Joe Cokanasiga has the world at his feet, according to the player currently viewed as the game’s deadliest finisher.

Cokanasiga will win his fourth cap in Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash with Italy at Twickenham as part of a three-quarter line that includes fellow Pacific Islander heavyweights Ben Te’o and Manu Tuilagi.

The Fijian-born 21-year-old used his 6-foot 4-inch, 18-stone frame to flatten Japan and Australia in his only previous starts last autumn to hint at his destructive potential in the Test arena.

Jonny May, whose 12 tries in 13 starts identify him as rugby’s premier wing on form, believes he has the attributes needed to become a rugby sensation.

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“Joe is very gifted athletically and he’s also a huge bloke. He’s strong and very, very fast. He has got the world at his feet, really,” May said.

“For a winger, that athletic ability is huge and then on top of that you’ve got to build your smartness and your game understanding. He’s continuing to do that.

“He’s getting better, he’s learning and he’s added to the group. He has earned his opportunity this week and I’m sure he’s going to have a pretty decent game.

“I haven’t known Joe that long but he’s quite quiet. He has a little bit of cheekiness about him – he has got a cheeky grin on his face.

England’s Joe Cokanasiga (left), Manu Tuilagi (centre) and Ben Te’o (right). Photo credit: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

“He is quite a reserved guy but he is starting to open up a little bit more. We might have a game of pool with him, or a game of darts, and have a laugh.”

Eddie Jones’ team selection – described by Conor O’Shea as “full metal jacket” – points to a direct approach of using brute force to batter Italy, but May insists they must adapt quickly if the bludgeon proves ineffective.

Two years ago Azzurri coach O’Shea used his no-ruck tactics to outscheme England and the controversial game plan that resulted in a law change still rankles with Jones.

May admits the confusion it caused in English ranks was not the nation’s finest hour but, apart from the second half against Wales in round three, he sees evidence that on-field adjustments can be made when needed.

“Look back to 2017 when Italy did the ruck thing – we didn’t adapt very well then. But this group has matured and learned,” May said.

Cokanasiga in action for Bath (Getty Images)

“We have a brilliant leadership group and brilliant coaches. The game is always going to test you.

“Against Wales, we failed that test but we have passed some tests recently as well.

“No matter what Italy present to us, there is going to be ways around it and it’s up to us to find that way on the pitch.”

May is available to face Italy after passing the return to play protocols for concussion having taken a blow to the head at the Principality Stadium, although he would have been able to make an immediate return to play had he not tried to game the test.

“I failed the HIA so I stayed off. I got the words wrong. It’s funny – all the HIAs I’ve done in the past have a list of words like candle, paper, sugar, wagon, finger, lemon.

“I think I was reeling off words from previous tests that I’d remembered to try and get out there quickly.

“He was looking at me a bit funny. I think I was miles off. It was more my mistake.”

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'He's strong and very, very fast' - May impressed with quiet giant Cokanasiga