By Ali Stokes
Setting aside the ups and downs of Bath's results and the much disputed Todd Blackadder job security debate, former London Irish colossus, Joe Cokanasiga, is tearing up trees in the Premiership after making his club debut against Bristol Bears last month.
Traditionally, it has been Cokanasiga's fellow Fijian-born Bath wing, Semesa Rokoduguni, catching headlines for outrageous offloads, seismic steps and magical finishes in the Blue, Black and White.
However, so far this season Cokanasiga has proved himself equal to the challenge of Roko's preceding reputation. The acrobatic finishes mere inches from the corner flag will attract the most headlines, highlight videos and stunning images, but it's the big man's physical presence that is most likely to find favour with Bath's and England's coaches.
The way Bath deploy the 20-year-old's significant 6ft 4" 18st frame both along the pitch's extremities and up the guts of their opponents defence has presented the Fijian-born star as an entirely different proposition to his first Premiership season with London Irish.
With two capped fly-halves in Rhys Priestland and Freddie Burns running the show behind an impressive pack boasting the likes of Dave Attwood, Sam Underhill, Francois Louw, Zach Mercer and Taulupe Faletau and the understated distribution of outside centre Jackson Willison, we are finally seeing Cokanasiga's true potential.
With Cokanasiga's propensity for an offload and mighty leg drive paired with his impressive pace for a man of his size, it seems almost certain Eddie Jones will be including him in his November International squad announced this Thursday (20th September).
It is no secret that Jones has kept a keen eye on the youngster, even when his destructive running game was restricted to the Championship two seasons ago. The summer before last, Cokanasiga was denied the opportunity of a Test debut under Jones' watch with a glute/hamstring issue, but could be in line for his first cap over the next few months.
Additionally, Cokanasiga's fellow Bath star, the aforementioned Mercer, could also be in line for a first full Test cap, having started England's uncapped fixture against the Barbarians in May.
It seems likely Mercer will find his climb to England's matchday 23 more arduous than his teammate's, especially with Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes both back fit and firing, but the 21-year-old's stunning displays cannot be ignored.
At the very least, it seems Mercer is set to continue his impressive run for Bath in the hopes of emulating Exeter dynamo Sam Simmonds' rise to the senior squad during the 2018 Six Nations. With Mercer adding a pleasantly surprising influence in Bath's defence, particularly the last grasp variety, the former u20 captain's first senior appearance must surely be a matter of time.
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