Stuart Lancaster backs England debutant to deliver knockout blow
The England head coach talks up Semesa Rokoduguni's qualities
England head coach Stuart Lancaster believes debutant Semesa Rokoduguni has the ability to deliver a knockout blow to New Zealand in Saturday’s first 2014 autumn international at Twickenham.
The Fijian-born flyer, who is a Lance Corporal with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, has been thrown straight into the Red Rose’s starting line-up after a fantastic start to the campaign with Bath.
There are a lot of stats that say he is the top of every category
He has scored four tries in six Aviva Premiership appearances so far this season and has quickly become a fan favourite at the Rec since his arrival in 2012.
And though playing the world champions at Twickenham will be a challenge like no other, Lancaster expects powerhouse Rokoduguni to meet the All Blacks head on.
Lancaster said: “I think Roko obviously has got power and pace. You can’t have all pace and passing ability and no one who can give a bit of punch, so we tried to hit that balance and I think Roko delivers that.
“He is certainly strong defensively and obviously he has had a fantastic pre-season now and he has hit the season running.
“There are a lot of stats that say he is the top of every category – he has had a great start and this is his next step really.”
The Red Rose will have painful memories of last summer’s tour in the back of their mind when New Zealand take to the Twickenham turf on Saturday.
The All Blacks needed a last-gasp try to beat England in Auckland but went on to win all three Tests, before retaining The Rugby Championship crown in September.
Nevertheless it has not been the perfect calendar year for New Zealand as defeat to South Africa last month snapped their 22-game unbeaten streak.
And Lancaster insists England have nothing to fear – calling on his side’s famous 38-21 triumph over New Zealand two autumns ago.
He added: “You look across the board and the experience in their side, I think their average caps is 50 – I think we have one or two players at that level so they are clearly very experienced.
“But it is not dissimilar to the side we played in the summer, it is not dissimilar to the side we played this time last year, it is not dissimilar to the side we played two years ago.
“We know on each occasion we have either won or pushed them close so there is a lot of belief in our team that we can match them.”
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