Ollie Phillips: Bath's Semesa Rokoduguni has earned England recall after adding defence to phenomenal tries

 
Ollie Phillips
Follow Ollie
Leicester Tigers v Bath Rugby - Aviva Premiership
Rokoduguni has only received two England caps so far (Source: Getty)

It’s been a week of contrasting fortunes for two of England’s most talented wingers, Semesa Rokoduguni and Marland Yarde.

While Rokoduguni has been added to Eddie Jones's squad for the autumn internationals following an injury to Elliot Daly, Yarde has made a surprise mid-season switch from Harlequins to Sale Sharks after reported breaches of discipline.

Jonny May's hamstring problem means that Rokoduguni now has only Anthony Watson and Denny Solomona between him and just his second England start under Jones.

For many, it’s a mystery why Bath’s Fiji-born finisher wasn’t initially named in England's autumn squad. He’s scored seven tries in seven Premiership games this season — level with May — and has beaten 28 defenders, more than any other England-qualified player.

Read more: England coaches forced to explain surprise decision to drop in-form wing Semesa Rokoduguni

He is a potent finisher, capable of scoring phenomenal tries that leave no one with any idea of how he pulled it off.

Wasps wing Christian Wade is similar. It can seem totally baffling to his admirers that he’s not even had a sniff, although critics will argue that his defensive frailties could be exposed at international level.

For a long time that was the criticism of Rokoduguni, but he’s rolled his sleeves up and worked on that part of his game. He’s made a big improvement and no one could now accuse his defence of being a gaping weakness — you don’t see him missing tackles or dropping high balls very often.

His call-up as an injury replacement suggests he’s still not front and centre of Jones’s thinking.

Harlequins v Sale Sharks - Aviva Premiership
Yarde "ran out of lives" at Harlequins according to Chris Robshaw (Source: Getty)

But he’s there and injury to May has put him on the cusp of wearing the Red Rose once more. It’s the perfect chance to impress. I’d much rather be in his shoes than in Yarde’s position.

I know Marland, he’s a nice lad. He plays on the edge. He’s an abrasive, aggressive player who's not afraid to ruffle a few feathers and rattle a few cages on the field – similar to his former Quins teammate Mike Brown. But sometimes that can boil over onto the other side. There’s a big difference between playing with confidence and an arrogance that becomes detrimental to the team.

That may not be the case but Chris Robshaw’s comments this week that Yarde had “run out of lives” makes it clear that something went wrong between the winger and the Quins hierarchy.

That’s not a healthy reputation to get and it’s not healthy circumstances in which to leave a club.

Injury to May could give Yarde an immediate opportunity to return to the England set up and remind Jones of just how talented he is, but my choice would be Exeter’s Olly Woodburn. He’s fast, abrasive, defensively solid and in top form.

Global game? Why it's a shame Ireland could be overlooked for the 2023 World Cup

RUGBYU-WC-2023-FRA-IRL-RSA
Ireland Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and rugby great Brian O'Driscoll both fronted the Ireland bid (Source: Getty)

South Africa is a fabulous country, it’s brilliant to play rugby in and would be a great Rugby World Cup host.

But out of the three bidding countries for the 2023 tournament, I was disappointed to see it recommended by the organising board over Ireland this week.

Read more: Rugby World Cup 2019 fixtures - England to face France in potential pool decider

We’re supposed to be expanding the game across the planet at the moment – the 2019 World Cup going to Japan for the first time being a brilliant example.

Ireland, similarly, has never hosted one. Both South Africa and France, the other bidding nation, have. Rugby World Cup 2023 is the 10th World Cup and we could have a situation where they’ve been shared by just a handful of countries.

Is that really echoing the message about growing the sport worldwide?

Related articles