Semesa Rokoduguni is set for the second phase of an eventful pre-World Cup journey this weekend after being given a chance to relaunch his England career.
The Fiji-born Bath wing initially missed out on a place in England’s 50-man World Cup training squad, but David Strettle’s decision to take up early residency in France with new club Clermont Auvergne created an opportunity for Rokoduguni.
He was back in Fiji on holiday when the call came, and after an initial training camp at England’s Surrey base, he will now jet off to Colorado with a 45-player England group and hope to earn a place in Stuart Lancaster’s final 31-man World Cup party.
Rokoduguni, who is currently on a sabbatical from the British Army, made a high-profile Test debut against world champions New Zealand at Twickenham last November. Injury then contributed to him drifting out of contention, and he presently remains a member of international rugby’s one-cap club.
Rokoduguni has revealed that his military experience helped him after he fell out of contention following the thrill of a debut against Richie McCaw’s All Blacks.
He said: “It has been one of those journeys. Everything was happening, and then suddenly there was a pause. It has been really frustrating, but coming back into the squad has been exciting.
“It is similar to what we do in military training – the mental side to deal with setbacks. We are taught to be flexible at all times, and this was useful for this situation.”
With England opening their World Cup campaign against Fiji at Twickenham on September 18, Rokoduguni could find himself in the frame to face the land of his birth.
South Africa launch a five-match countdown to the Rugby World Cup today with coach Heyneke Meyer praising debutant centre Jesse Kriel.
After a season playing at full-back for Northern Bulls, the 21-year-old gets his big chance wearing the No13 shirt against a World XV at Newlands stadium in Cape Town.
– RWC: England trim cup squad to 45
The only mild disappointment for the exciting runner is that caps will not be awarded as the match is not considered a Test.
“Jesse is an unbelievably exciting player and I have always rated him highly,” said Meyer, a coach not prone to false praise.
“He is probably among the most talented players I have coached and this is a great opportunity for him. I think he could go on to become one of the best outside centres South Africa has produced. Jesse has got acceleration that you do not often see.”
England coach Stuart Lancaster has dropped five players from his initial 50-man pre-tournament World Cup squad, the Rugby Football Union announced Friday.
The remaining 45 players will now head off to a high-altitude training camp in Denver, Colorado as they battle to make the final 31-man squad which Lancaster, like all World Cup coaches, must name by August 31.
Veteran back-row forward Nick Easter has been omitted, although their is a possibility he could be recalled, as have rising stars Maro Itoje and Elliot Daly.
— Andy Goode (@AndyGoode10) July 10, 2015
Meanwhile, lock Ed Slater and fly-half Stephen Myler have also been dropped. Easter will remain with club side Harlequins for treatment on a back problem whilst the quartet of Itoje, Daly, Slater and Myler will now be on standby for tournament hosts England’s squad.
“The players have worked very hard for the past three weeks and there is a really good feel about the group,” said Lancaster. “Denver is the next stage in our training, a chance to develop further in a different environment.”
The uncapped duo of Wasps centre Daly and Saracens lock Itoje must wait for their international chance, although Lancaster said both had “bright futures”.
“Elliot and Maro have fitted in and trained well and it’s been great for them to be in this environment,” the coach said.
“They are both young players who have bright futures. They have made a great impression and I am sure other opportunities will come for both of them further down the line.
“Steve and Ed, likewise, have contributed greatly. Ed has done well to recover from his knee injury having missed the majority of last season. However, there is a lot of competition in the second row.
“I have spoken to all the players to explain that things can change very quickly and they can come back in at any point.”
Lancaster said injury was the reason why 36-year-old Easter, a member of the England side beaten by South Africa in the 2007 World Cup final, was not travelling to the United States.
“Nick will stay for treatment on his back rather than risk aggravating it further with travel,” he said. “We look forward to him rejoining the squad in August when we will review the squad and also consider those who have been unable to begin the camp after suffering injuries at the end of last season.”
England’s 45-man squad will spend two weeks in Rugby Town USA in Glendale, Colorado.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) July 10, 2015
England 45-man World Cup squad
Full-backs: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Alex Goode (Saracens) Wings: Chris Ashton (Saracens), Jonny May (Gloucester), Jack Nowell (Exeter), Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath), Anthony Watson (Bath), Marland Yarde (Harlequins)
Centres: Brad Barritt (Saracens), Luther Burrell (Northampton), Sam Burgess (Bath), Kyle Eastmond (Bath), Jonathan Joseph (Bath), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester)
Fly-halves: Danny Cipriani (Sale), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath), Henry Slade (Exeter)
Scrum-halves: Danny Care (Harlequins), Lee Dickson (Northampton), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Ben Youngs (Leicester)
Back-rows: Calum Clark (Northampton), James Haskell (Wasps), Matt Kvesic (Gloucester), Ben Morgan (Gloucester), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Tom Wood (Northampton)
Second-rows: Dave Attwood (Bath), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), George Kruis (Saracens), Geoff Parling (Leicester)
Props: Kieran Brookes (Newcastle), Dan Cole (Leicester), Alex Corbisiero (Northampton), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Matt Mullan (Wasps), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), David Wilson (Bath)
Hookers: Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), Rob Webber (Bath), Tom Youngs (Leicester), Jamie George (Saracens)