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Fijian rose of England

Pravin Narain
Sunday, February 12, 2017

THE saying 'where there is a will, there is a way' rings true for Fiji-born Josateki Cokanasiga as he takes England rugby by storm with his powerful performance during the England U20 side in the 2017 Six Nationss competition.

The 1.95 metres tall winger has a lot to offer to the game with his beast-like figure.

Cokanasiga, originally from Debua Village in Serua, migrated to England in 2000 when he was only two-and-a half years old. Cokanasiga's father Ilaitia told this newspaper the sacrifices he had to make in his quest to get to the England team.

"I used to take Joe for training for the London Irish U18 team twice in a week back in 2014. He used to train in his own kit while the rest of the boys wore London Irish training gear. After six months of training, he asked me if I could ask the management for him to get the training clothes," he told Times Sport earlier.

"I felt so sorry for him that made me cry. I told him that I was going to buy him the London Irish team training gear so he looks part of the team. I sat down with him and told him when an opportunity comes, grab it with both hands and do not let it go."

The 19-year-old winger has been approached by England coach Eddie Jones and he has been given a special training schedule. He could be following in the footsteps of Isoa Domolailai who played for the England 7s team in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and Semesa Rokoduguni who is the British Army has played for England 15s recently.

Cokanasiga got his son, Josateki to play for the British Army team in South East Asia after telling his coach that Josateki was 17 when actually he was only 15.

It showed he was not afraid of the big players, but the teenager had the courage to take on the big boys on the team.

After their 59-17 win over France last weekend, the 19-year-old told England Rugby website about his sterling performance to many who were not aware.

"I lived in Germany so I used to play every day," he told the website.

"I like the physical element of rugby as well as the camaraderie of being part of a team."

Cokanasiga is the second eldest in the family with elder sister Misi and 15-year-old brother Philip Cokanasiga, who is also part of the London Irish Rugby Academy.

Joe, as he is preferred to be called said he came from a rich rugby country where rugby was none less than a religion to the Fijians.

"My dad played rugby for the army so he was very supportive of my early playing days so as was my mother. They have been the main influence, my father had one tour of Iraq and Afghanistan too, I'm really proud of him," he said.

"The best of advice I have been given is to play for your family, that's all the motivation I need."

Cokanasiga's father is now a retired British Army and calls himself a proud father to Josateki.

"I saw something special in Joe so I sent a video of him playing in Brunei to Akapusi Qera, who is a friend of mine when he was still with the Gloucester Club. He was willing to take Joe in their academy," he said earlier.

"Since I was moving to London, my wife didn't like the idea of Joe living away from us. So Qera's agent spoke to the London Irish Academy to give Joe a trial.

"We turned up on the day, and as soon as they saw Joe, they said he doesn't need to attend a trial game because of his size."

Josateki made his debut for England at the U18 level in 2016 and the moment he still cherishes in his heart.

"When I first pulled on an England shirt, I just couldn't believe it was happening. I was just immensely proud. Singing the national anthem gave me goose bumps," he told the England Rugby website.

"The team are on an unbelievable run. I was hoping this would be my breakthrough year and I've taken my opportunity. The boys have helped me settle in and I need to keep my feet on the ground," he added.

"I've got some good mentors at the club, Topsy Ojo, Asaeli Tikoirotuma and Alex Lewington while Nick Kennedy and Paul Hodgson are probably my biggest mentors."

Josateki has set an example for many young people who lose hope after their first attempt and should learn life is not a bed of roses.

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