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England in need of big Semesa Rokoduguni’s physicality says Matt Banahan

Semesa RokoduguniSemesa Rokoduguni deserves a shot at World Cup glory according to Matt Banahan, who insists his Bath colleague would offer England “something different”.

Red Rose boss Stuart Lancaster is preparing to trim his squad again next week, with only three of the six wingers currently training expected to make the final selection.

Banahan believes Six Nations wide men Jack Nowell and Anthony Watson are nailed on, but contends Rokoduguni’s extra physicality should win him the nod for the third spot ahead of remaining contenders Jonny May, Chris Ashton and Marland Yarde.

Banahan told The Rugby Paper: “Roko’s probably seen as the outsider but he adds something different and was on form and scoring tries for a successful Bath team.

“He got that one cap against New Zealand and then tweaked his quad, so leaving him out after that was a bit harsh, but he showed towards the end of the season what he’s got and it’s hard for any defence to stop him.

“He’ll also be able to stand up physically to the big wingers Wales have and has the power to play against Australia’s inherited Fijian wingers, too.

“Jonny May gives you out-and-out pace and has that X-factor if you want, but at a World Cup you need physicality because there are a lot of games to play.

“With Nowell and Watson you’ve got the gas but you also need that physical variation Roko brings. You’re playing different opposition every week and you can’t have the same attributes in all three, so Roko would be the different one.”

Banahan, meanwhile, believes England are blessed to have two fly-halves of the quality of George Ford and Owen Farrell and predicts a huge battle for the starting jersey.

“They offer two very different types of games and they could work well together in rotating them and using them as back-up to each other,” Banahan said.

“Owen can run a structured game, as they naturally do at Saracens and which is quite effective, while George likes to play on the front foot and is very attacking.

“You need that versatility at a World Cup because you don’t get another shot. They’re brilliant options for England, they just need to pick the right ones.”

Banahan believes Ford has now come of age, adding: “I was really impressed with him last season.

“From previous years everyone knew what he could do and a lot of weight was put on his shoulders, but he just took it all in his stride and there was no change in his character.

“He’s one of the most humble guys who just goes out to do his job and you can see now why he won the junior world player of the year award in 2011.

“The skill and how he reads the game is amazing and he’s got the talent to be one of the best players in the world at this World Cup. As a player you want to create a legacy and he’s got all the ability to do that, and on the biggest stage of all.”

Bath, meanwhile, are preparing for another assault on the Premiership title, having tasted a bitter defeat in May’s final against Saracens.

Banahan is convinced the long wait for silverware, one which will now extend into an eighth season at the Rec, will soon be over.

He said: “We’re putting ourselves in positions in finals to win silverware regularly now, which is a place we haven’t been for some years.

“You’ve just got to keep putting yourself in those positions and you can’t just be happy with getting into Europe each year through the Premiership.

“We’re aspiring to be a better team and I believe it will soon be our captain lifting the trophy, not the opposition one.”

Bath boss Mike Ford last week confirmed months of speculation by admitting the club was in the market for Wales No.8 Taulupe Faletau.

Banahan said: “If he did come it would be a great asset to the club, but at the moment we’re all waiting to see what comes of it.

“If he does come, we’ll welcome him to the club.”

Bath’s intensive pre-season programme includes four matches in the newly launched West Country Challenge Cup this September.

They could enter the new season with as many as 15 front-line players missing on World Cup duty, but Banahan insists they can cope.

He explained: “We could have a whole starting line-up missing but it’ll give guys like fly-half Ollie Devoto a chance to stand up and be counted.

“A lot of our younger players will get opportunities and the likes of Adam Hastings (son of Scotland international Gavin), Rory Jennings and Darren Atkins are all showing up well in training. You’ll be hearing a lot about those boys.”

NEALE HARVEY

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