Joe Cokanasiga made a huge impact.
Joe Cokanasiga made a huge impact.

Hulking 120kg beast is the new Jonah Lomu

World Cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward has given new England winger Joe Cokanasiga the highest of praise comparing him to All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu.

Cokanasiga had a breakout performance in England's 57-14 win over Italy at Twickenham on Sunday.

"He reminds me of the great Fijian players and this guy has all the qualities to play like Jonah Lomu. It was great to see him play his normal game," Woodward said during the broadcast.

The 21-year-old Bath winger will no doubt he happy with the comparison to the All Blacks winger having previously called Lomu his hero while also looking up to fellow All Black Julian Savea.

Cokanasiga made his England debut against Japan last year with Sunday's Test his first in the Six Nations He's listed at 1.93m and weighs in just shy of the 120kg mark, a similar stature to Lomu.

Cokanasiga didn't get on the scoresheet but he set up one England try and ran for more than 107m with five clean breaks.

He certainly lived up to the hype as England belted Italy at Twickenham.

England did its part to keep anticipation and title prospects alive in the Six Nations despite Wales remaining the favourite to claim the grand slam, rebounding from a loss to the Welsh in Cardiff to run in eight tries and claim a bonus point victory against the limited Italians.

Silverware aspirations aside, coach Eddie Jones is adding different dimensions to England's arsenal.

This match allowed a first look at the Ben Te'o/Manu Tuilagi midfield. Throw in impressive man of the match Cokanasiga, who Jones believes could evolve into the world's best wing in the air, and that trio weighed more than heavyweight boxing champions Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury.

Big isn't always best but the performance Tuilagi, running for over 140m, signalled his return to form.

With Henry Slade relegated to the bench, Tuilagi thrived one spot wider at centre. It helped, of course, Italy gave him far too much time and space to wind up, but with two tries - his first in this arena for five years - and another set up for former Hurricanes blindside Brad Shields, Tuilagi demonstrated his power and skill.

Jones' backline selection made no secret of the fact England would be more aggressive and in Cokanasiga they unleashed a lethal attacking weapon.

Owen Farrell picked him out with cross field kicks early and his ability to coast with the ball in one hand, as if approaching a basketball dunk, and then offload in the tackle, offers a real point of difference, should England opt to be more expansive than their usual risk adverse selves come the World Cup.

Whether popping up in the midfield on inside balls, on the opposite wing or roaming his wide channel, Cokanasiga caused serious damage. In addition to his try he also set up Dan Robson's.

If there is one question mark it is Cokanasiga's defence, however, which needs attention after he was exposed twice in the first half and once in the second - two errors where he attempted to jam in costing tries.

Perhaps, in his fourth Test, allowances can be made for the 21-year-old. From an attacking perspective, though, there is plenty for Jones to work with.

"He did some good things. The one-handed stuff is great for you guys but he could possibly carry it in two at other times. He's a young kid with great potential," Jones said.

"We took him to Argentina in 2017 and he couldn't do a training session. He's worked that hard to get himself right.

"He's got good natural ability. He's got areas of the game he's got to work really hard on which he is doing.

"He could be one of the best players in the air in the world. Israel Folau is probably the best but there's no reason why he can't challenge him in the future."

This article originally appeared on the NZ Herald and was reproduced with permission

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