AUTUMN INTERNATIONALS PASS MARKS FOR EVANS’ OZ EXAM
SEMESA Rokoduguni was able to reflect on an emotional Remembrance Day after scoring the decisive try in England’s victory over Argentina.
The autumn opener at Twickenham had particular poignancy for Rokoduguni, a lance-corporal in the Royal Scots Dragoon guards who served in Afghanistan.
The Bath wing stepped off the bench early in the match when Mike Brown departed concussed to touch down in the 67th minute of a dour 21-8 victory described by a seething Eddie Jones as a “grindathon”.
A handful of his British Army colleagues, both retired and serving, were watching from the stands as he took Henry Slade’s pass and dived over.
“It was an honour and a privilege to be at Twickenham on this day for the armed forces,” Rokoduguni said.
“For me personally, it was an honour to represent the military as a whole for all those who have served in the past and those who are serving at the moment.
“To be part of the winning team and to score the try makes it extra special. It was an emotional day for me.
“I had a few mates and a couple of bosses there at Twickenham and I was looking forward to meeting them for a few beers. It was a special day for us.”
Rokoduguni won his third cap after Jonny May and Jack Nowell were ruled out by injury and will be hoping the pattern of his previous two Test outings is not repeated.
In 2014 and 2016 he was jettisoned immediately, most recently despite Jones promising not to select the 30-yearold and then drop him in the manner of Stuart Lancaster two years earlier.
Rokoduguni insists he has not been scarred by those experiences.
He said: “There are a lot of wingers out there so I need to get my hands on the ball as often as possible rather than just hugging the touchline.”
“It’s not like a shoulder injury, say, where it’s four to six weeks.
“I’ve had a little knock or two before but have normally shaken it off pretty quickly, but I couldn’t shake this one off. It was pretty bad, really, worrying at the time.
“I went up to see a Professor Belli in Birmingham. I failed the test the first time and he told me to do some exercise as it can help the symptoms.
“So I did as he said and when I went up there two weeks later I’d significantly improved.
“It’s just symptoms, really. I was having bad headaches, then I’d be fine for a couple of days. I’d walk somewhere and feel a bit dizzy.
“But I was looked after really well by the Scarlets and by Wales.
“It wasn’t a great time for me, but I turned the corner a couple of weeks ago and I’m so happy to be back. “I feel great now.” Given that it was his first game after a month-and-a-half out, Evans’s effort against the Wallabies was remarkable. He could easily have been picked out as Wales’s best player on the day, his work shining through even on a day when his captain Alun Wyn Jones brought a towering display to the table.
“If I get my hands on the ball I’m happy,” he said after the 29-21 defeat. “But I just want to win the game. “It’s good to get a few touches and we are developing a new style of play. We caught Australia on the edge a few times but maybe that last pass didn’t work out for us.
“We turned the ball over far too many times and against a good team like Australia you can’t do that if you are going to win.”
Were his lungs burning after returning to rugby in such a fast-paced game? “I’m always puffing in international rugby,” he laughed.
“But, no, I felt all right. How did I look? I was blowing a bit, but that’s to be expected. I was happy I’d done quite a lot of fitness back in camp and I was pretty happy with where my fitness was at, anyway.”
Next up for Wales are Georgia, who view scrummaging as Argentina used to view it – that is, more than a bit enthusiastically. Indeed, you can imagine punters in Tbilisi greeting an eight-man shove the way the locals in Carmarthen react to a Steff Evans sidestep.
“Their bread and butter is in the front five, so it’s going to be a big challenge,” said Evans.
“That said, we’ve been pretty happy with the way our set-piece has gone. We’ve done some good work there and we are going to bring it in that area next weekend.”