By Michael Kelleher
Last Updated: 15/11/18 2:17pm
England head coach Eddie Jones has described Joe Cokanasiga as “a little bit special” ahead of his international debut against Japan.
The 21-year-old Bath Winger is one of 11 changes to England’s starting XV from last weekend’s 16-15 defeat to New Zealand.
Cokanasiga replaces Jonny May in the back three and Jones is clearly excited about his potential.
England vs Japan
November 17, 2018, 2:30pm
“I don’t think we should put too much pressure on him but certainly he is a player of great promise,” Jones told Sky Sports News.
“We have had him around the squad for the last two years. He deserves this opportunity. He has worked really hard at his game.
“There is something a little bit special about him so we are looking forward to seeing him play.”
When asked what stood out about Cokanasiga, Jones replied: “He has got pace, he has got power and he has got the ability to find the line so they are three pretty important characteristics for a winger.”
“He has got pace, he has got power and he has got the ability to find the line so they are three pretty important characteristics for a winger.”
Eddie Jones on Joe Cokanasiga
Cokanasiga is one of two uncapped players in England’s 23-man squad for the Test against the Brave Blossoms, with Worcester flanker Ted Hill also included on the bench.
Hill is named despite having made just six appearances for Worcester, all this season.
The 19-year-old has made a strong impression on Jones in training, with the England head coach comparing him to former All Blacks captain Reuben Thorne.
“He is a very calm boy,” Jones said of Hill. “Physically for a young guy he is put together well.
“He reminds me very much of a Reuben Thorne – big strong No 6, strong around the tackle, good carrier, good tackler – and he has got all the attributes of being a good player but he has got a lot of work to do.
“We have decided to blood him this week so it is a great opportunity for him. What has impressed us a lot – the players and the coaches – is for a young guy who has played two Premiership games, he has come in and he has not been overawed by the situation.
“He has got on with his work, learned what he has needed to do and contributed well.”
When asked if Hill has time to force his way into England’s 2019 World Cup squad, Jones said: “If we did not think there was, he would not be playing. He would be back playing for the Warriors against Bath on Friday night. So, yes.”
George Kruis has been ruled out of the remaining November Tests with a calf injury, giving Bath’s Charlie Ewels a rare opportunity to partner Maro Itoje in the second row.
“It is a great opportunity for Charlie Ewels,” Jones said. “He is a guy that we have had in the squad for maybe two or three years.
“He gets this opportunity to run the lineout and play against a very good team. Michael Leitch is a very good lineout forward so he will test us.”
Jones has chosen to rest a number of key players against Japan but he does not want to see any decrease in the intensity his side showed when pushing the All Blacks all the way last Saturday.
“We want to play really well because we don’t get too many opportunities to play as an England side so every opportunity is a golden opportunity,” Jones said.
“It means a lot to the players and it means a lot to the fans so we want to play really well and we want to have that ruthless mindset about going out there and playing every minute like it is out last minute of Test rugby.”
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