/Cokanasiga shines in England win

Cokanasiga shines in England win

Joe Cokanasiga scores a try
Joe Cokanasiga has not played for England since September 2019
England: (26) 43
Tries: Underhill, Lawrence, Cokanasiga 2, Blamire, Smith, Randall; Cons: Smith 4
United States: (3) 29
Tries: Fa’anana-Schultz, Dolan, Germishuys, Dyer; Pen: Carty; Cons: Carty 3

Wing Joe Cokanasiga proved he was more than ready for his England return with two tries in Sunday’s win against the United States at Twickenham.

In his first Test since 2019, Cokanasiga shone in a seven-try victory that was far from flawless.

With eight debutants in the starting XV, the hosts started brightly scoring four tries to please the 10,000 fans.

But England’s error count climbed after injuries to Max Malins and Ollie Lawrence and they conceded four tries.

Highly-anticipated uncapped half-back pairing Harry Randall and Marcus Smith at least gave supporters something to shout about before the final whistle as they both scored their first tries for England.

Harry Randall runs with the ball
Harry Randall’s quick play was instrumental in several England tries

More experienced players make their mark in Lions’ absence

Rather than the debutants, it was those already capped who initially looked most keen to make their mark as Eddie Jones considers his options for the 2023 World Cup.

With 12 England internationals part of the British and Irish Lions squad in South Africa, Cokanasiga looked capable of filling the void after bouncing back from a knee injury.

Wing Malins impressed in the air to set up Sam Underhill’s opening try, but the Saracens back left the field with a shoulder injury soon after and will be out for “a couple of weeks” according to Jones.

Lawrence – who earned his first England cap in October 2020 – displayed his power as he barged through a tackle to score on the left but he too was later replaced after a clash of heads.

The 21-year-old is now unlikely to complete head injury return-to-play protocols in time for Saturday’s game against Canada.

With Jones only naming two backs on the bench, several players were left out of position including fly-half Jacob Umaga at centre and scrum-half Dan Robson on the wing.

Nevertheless, several of the 12 debutants in the 23-man group seized their opportunity at Twickenham and Jones says he hopes “eight or nine” players will “step up into a fully competing squad” after the summer fixtures.

Scrum-half Randall made his offering plain with repeated quick-tap penalties upping the tempo in a man-of-the-match performance.

Number eight Callum Chick showed good control from the back of the scrum, while full-back Freddie Steward was called “colossal” by Jones for his work in the air.

Marcus Smith celebrates his try
Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith has been on Eddie Jones’ radar since 2015 when he was still a schoolboy

Fans have been waiting many years for Harlequins fly-half Smith to make his international debut and head coach Jones said before the match he was “not sure” how the 22-year-old would cope with Test rugby.

Smith did not make an immediate impact but settled in as the game went on, contributing to England’s opening try with a pin-point kick-off, and put Cokanasiga through a gap for the wing’s second score before going over himself to the delight of the crowd.

Randall’s try was perhaps the best of the match as the scrum-half showed the cool assurance it takes to succeed on the international stage, throwing a dummy to open a gap, which he stepped through to score.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Jones said of the half-backs’ performances: “We were looking for something a little bit different from them and they gave it to us.

“Harry was inventive. We wanted him to put some pace in the game and he did. Marcus really did his job well and served his outside backs. He’ll only get better after that game.”

The four second-half tries conceded suggest that most work is needed in defence and Jones’ side have six days to improve before they host Canada in their final summer fixture.

Line-ups

England: Steward; Cokanasiga, Slade, Lawrence, Malins; Smith, Randall; Genge, Langdon, Heyes, McNally, Ewels, Ludlow (capt), Underhill, Chick.

Replacements: Blamire, Obano, Davison, Hill, B Curry, Ludlam, Robson, Umaga.

United States: Brache; Te’o, Campbell (capt), Whiting, Kruse; Carty, de Haas; Ainuu, Sosene-Feagui, Mullen, Peterson, Civetta, Fa’anana-Schultz, Hattingh, Dolan.

Replacements: Taufete’e, Harmon, Waldren, Brakeley, Wooching, Germishuys, Baska, Dyer.

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