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 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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
Jones stated that the Azzurri can be a gifted team if their head coach Conor O’Shea takes a positive approach – a reference to the controversial no-ruck tactics employed by the Irishman at the same venue two years ago.
It is a view echoed by Kruis, who forms a second-row partnership alongside Joe Launchbury after Maro Itoje was definitively ruled out by forwards coach Steve Borthwick because of a knee injury.
“If Conor lets them play then they can play and produce some magic out the back. We’re prepared for that and we’re not underestimating them,” Kruis said.
“They’ve put on some pretty good performances in this Six Nations and we know they could chuck anything at us – like they have done previously.
“They’re unpredictable and can play in different styles. With Italy you’ve got to expect anything and that’s exactly what we’re thinking about.
“The game starts with the forwards so we know we’ve got a big job to do in the pack.”
Jones on Thursday raised the possibility of Maro Itoje being restored to England’s matchday 23 if he made rapid progress in his recovery from ligament damage, but the hope now is that he becomes available for Scotland.
“Maro is not fit for this weekend, but he’s recovering really well. He progresses every day. Everyone else is fully fit,” Borthwick said.
“We’re really excited about this game. Italy have played very, very well over the last couple of matches.
“Look at how they played for part of the game against Scotland and against Ireland – it shows they’re a good team.”
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Warren Gatland has highlighted the “fantastic” contribution of Wales’ replacements to a record unbeaten run and Six Nations title charge.
Wales’ strength in reserve was showcased during a 21-13 victory over England 11 days ago by fly-half Dan Biggar’s second-half appearance off the bench.
He bossed the final quarter, setting up wing Josh Adams’ match-clinching try, as Wales claimed a first Six Nations win in the fixture since 2013.
It would be no surprise to see the combination of Biggar and Gareth Anscombe – Wales’ current starting number 10 – again play a pivotal role in Saturday’s Murrayfield appointment with Scotland.
“I think both the 10s have been good coming off the bench,” Wales head coach Gatland said.
“It’s something that we did identify going back to the autumn, just in terms of the strength in depth we are trying to create in this squad and how important our bench has been.
“Our bench has been fantastic for us, so when we select the side we do talk about the potential impact of players coming off the bench. Not just carrying on, but giving us an impact off the bench.
“In fairness, they’ve been excellent, not just in the last game, but in a number of games for us.
“It has been a definite consideration when we’ve been picking the side.”
The England result has left Wales, unbeaten for 12 Tests, requiring wins against Scotland and then Ireland in Cardiff seven days later to secure the Six Nations title and a third Grand Slam of Gatland’s reign.
And Gatland added: “There is no doubt it was an important result for us. We prepared exceptionally well in those two weeks leading up to England.
“We were very confident within the squad we were going to deliver a good performance.
“Going in at half-time (Wales trailed 10-3), it wasn’t about the pressure England were putting on us, it was about the inaccuracies in our game that was giving England some ascendancy.
“We sorted those things out at half-time and had 60 per cent territory and domination.
“Our territory and possession against England was a pretty impressive statistic, and for us to finish as strong as we did in the last 20 minutes when they struggled to get out of their half, was excellent.
“We finished strongly, and we can build on that for this week.”
Wales have already beaten Scotland this season, claiming a 21-10 success in an autumn series opener, while they have only lost once in the Six Nations against them since 2007.
That defeat, though, came two years ago after Wales lost a 13-9 interval lead and conceded 20 unanswered second-half points.
Wales hooker Ken Owens said: “They look to play a very loose, open and expansive game, which we saw there two years ago, so we know the challenge they are going to bring and the quality they have in their side.
“They are a very good outfit – we always have a tough battle against them – and I think they know what we are going to bring, so they will look to nullify that, but we also know their threats.
“We are worrying about ourselves, and we are looking forward to getting out on the field, getting the result and keeping the momentum going.”