It’s been a big weekend for ‘Big Joe’ Cokanasiga.
His man of the match display against Italy saw former England head coach Sir Clive Woodward inevitably liken him to Jonah Lomu. Comparing any outsized wingers to the New Zealand great is one of rugby’s most well-trodden clichés, and one Eddie Jones was quick to dismiss.
“That’s ridiculous,” said Jones. “That tells you why when you have the television on you should have the commentary down.”
That said, the physical similarities are plain to see. Like Lomu, Cokanasiga stands 6’4 and tips the scales at 18 stone. Yet size as a winger is useless if you don’t have the athleticism to go with it – and Cokanasiga has that in spades.
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The Fijian born wing – full name Ratu Josateki Tuivanuavou Waqanivalu Cokanasiga – has clocked over 10 metres a second over 50m in training at Bath. Since arriving last summer he has officially become the fastest player on the books at the club – faster than England flyers Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joeseph.
For comparison, Ireland’s fastest international player – Jacob Stockdale – has been clocked at 9.97 mps.
England’s fastest player – Jonny May – was clocked in 2017 at 10.49 metres per second in a 40-metre speed test. While there are no metres per second times for the pre-GPS Lomu – the 18 stone plus All Black was reputed to run the 100 metres in a time of 10.8 seconds (although that a number that has not been verified).
Fellow speedster May has been suitably impressed by Big Joe.
“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.
“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.”
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