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Van Graan believes Cokanasiga's rejuvenation of his performance in the Bath matches was motivated by being overlooked by England.
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Van Graan believes Cokanasiga’s rejuvenation of his performance in the Bath matches was motivated by being overlooked by England.

According to Johann van Graan, director of rugby at Bath, Joe Cokanasiga has refocused on his goals after being left out of the World Cup squad. Van Graan believes this decision has allowed the wing to regain his top form.

Unfortunately, despite his impressive performance of scoring 10 tries in the last nine Premiership games, Cokanasiga, aged 26, was not picked for England’s squad in the upcoming World Cup in France. However, he proved his worth once again as he scored two tries against Sale on Sunday, helping Bath secure a bonus-point victory and climb to second place in the table.

He was not selected for the Six Nations tournament, but during the eight-week break, he dedicated his time to training and collaborating with Bath’s attack coach, Lee Blackett. He even had the opportunity to play at centre during practice sessions in hopes of increasing his participation in matches. Van Graan believes that this additional effort is proving to be beneficial.

“Let’s think back to August and September when he was not selected for the Rugby World Cup team. During that time, we discussed what your strengths are and how we can improve upon them, what areas you have been tasked to work on and how we can enhance those skills. Most importantly, I asked Joe, why do you play rugby?” He explained.

Due to his exceptional abilities as a rugby player, he thoroughly enjoys the sport. He has returned to playing at a high level while also putting in extra effort during training to improve his skills overall. On Sunday, we saw many impressive performances, but his stood out. His aerial skills have noticeably improved, along with his defensive abilities and impressive tackles. Additionally, he has a knack for scoring. It is a pleasure to see him play with such confidence and using his unique style of carrying the ball in one hand. It is clear that he is thoroughly enjoying the game.

Joe Cokanasiga smiles

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Cokanasiga’s last England appearance came during their ill-fated World Cup warm-up campaign and he has regularly found himself in and out of the national coach’s plans since making his debut in 2018. If he can continue his current form he will no doubt come into Steve Borthwick’s thinking for the summer tour of Japan and New Zealand.

Cokanasiga stated that he and Lee discussed the importance of improving during the weeks off. Many people may simply wait for the next game, but Lee advised Cokanasiga to find new ways to enhance his skills, such as improving his ball handling or being more involved in the middle. Cokanasiga took this advice to heart and put it into practice, even being selected to play at the 13 position in training by Lee and Johann in order to challenge himself and raise his performance level. This experience has boosted his confidence significantly.

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“Occasionally, I observe England, but there are times when I choose not to. When I am at my club, my focus is solely on that. I watch to support my friends, but I also take note of areas I need to improve on. The gameplan at England differs from what we do at Bath, so it is important to not blend the two. Our coach, Steve Borthwick, advises us on what we need to work on, and we prioritize those areas. Once I am in the England environment, I adapt to their style of play.”

Source: theguardian.com