Joe Cokanasiga rediscovers rugby’s identity as he prepares for England return
Joe Cokanasiga admitted that he had to rediscover his true rugby identity when he struggled after his one-year absence due to a knee injury.
The Bath wing will make their first test start in 22 months when England host the United States at Twickenham on Sunday.
The 23-year-old suffered a serious knee injury in England’s 45-7 win over the United States at the 2019 World Cup in Japan, and only now feels at his best.
The powerful finisher revealed that he needs to rebuild his confidence and state of mind as he works to regain his peak form, but now feels like himself again.
âI think I worked really hard, just to try and adjust not only my knee but also my confidence,â Cokanasiga said.
âI had been away for a year and didn’t have the best of seasons at the start.
âMy form was not great. I was just forcing stuff, I wasn’t playing rugby that I play.
âSo I took some free time and I settled everything physically and mentally, I regained my confidence in my knee and in myself.
âAnd towards the end, I think I was starting to get my shape back. And now I have the opportunity to do it again.
âI think it’s natural to have to work on confidence after an injury like this.
âWhen you’ve been away for so long, I’ve been away for a year and a few weeks, you kind of forget, not how to play rugby, but the feeling of playing rugby.
“So just when you’re over there, come to think of it now, it wasn’t me playing.”
âSo I worked a lot with (Bath sports psychologist) Katie Warriner, just to support myself again.
âI kind of lost my reason for playing rugby.
âSo now I just need to support myself and believe in myself.
âIt’s really exciting, I feel like it’s been a long time for me.
âThe last time I played was against the United States, so it’s kinda weird, but it’s an exciting group. I have thought about this a lot this week.
Irish London lock Chunya Munga suffered a knee ligament injury and will leave the England camp next week.
The 20-year-old had been drafted into Eddie Jones’ squad to gain experience for the future, but now faces a fate on the sidelines.
Assistant coach John Mitchell believes the young second row will still reap long-term benefits from his stint with the senior squad.
âIt’s always hard for anyone to get hurt, even more so for a young man because he’s probably never had those kinds of injuries before,â said Mitchell.
âHe’s a really bright young man with a bright future ahead of him.
âWhat he’s learned in this program is basically to realize how much more resilient he has to become, constant preparation.
âNot only the physical demands, but also the emotional and mental demands that it creates.
“So I think he learned a lot about it and that he will definitely become a better player because of his presence here.”