AU­TUMN IN­TER­NA­TION­ALS PASS MARKS FOR EVANS’ OZ EXAM

South Wales Echo - - AUTUMN INTERNATIONAL -

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.”

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