Joe Cokanasiga and Ruaridh McConnochie ‘have everything to prove’ during the World Cup, says former England winger John Bentley.
The Bath duo have been included in Eddie Jones’ 31-man World Cup squad, with Cokanasiga starring for England in their record 57-15 victory over Ireland last weekend.
McConnochie, who made the transition from sevens to the XV-a-side game at the start of the 2018/19 season, has had a remarkable rise which has seen him earn a place on the plane to Japan.
A niggling injury has halted McConnochie from making his England debut thus far, but the versatile back will be hoping to be fit when England take on Italy in their final World Cup warm-up match next Friday.
“I like the look of them,” said Bentley.
“They look exciting. They have everything to prove and I do like the manner in which they play. The wing, years gone by, was where wingers would run up and down the tramlines, but now they have a bigger involvement and have bigger work rates.”
England will be aiming to banish the memories of the last when they arrive in Japan in just over a weeks’ time.
In 2015, Stuart Lancaster’s England suffered the embarrassment of crashing out at the pool stages in their own World Cup after defeats against Wales and Australia.
This year, Eddie Jones’ side have been drawn against Tonga, USA, France and Argentina and Bentley believes captain Owen Farrell will play a key role if England are to go far in the tournament.
Bentley added: He [Owen Farrell] has seemed to have dealt with his temperament quite well in recent seasons, but he is key to their progression throughout the competition.
“I do feel like they will make their way out of the group. They will be due a performance so I do think we will progress out of the group stages.”
After England’s victory over Ireland at Twickenham last Saturday, they are now third favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup in just over two months’ time but Bentley, who also represented the British and Irish Lions in 1997, admits New Zealand are still the ones to beat.
He said: “You would always look to New Zealand. They won the last two having been the best team in the world between the two World Cups and they have been able to perform at the right stage.
“The hardest thing about being at the top is getting knocked off and staying there so you’d be silly not to look towards New Zealand winning it. However, I think the northern hemisphere – Wales, Ireland and England - will have a say in it as well.”
Bentley is currently working with the charity the Encephalitis Society ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan. He is working alongisde full time carer of Japanese Encephalitis survivor, Robert Annewandter and this is particularly important at the moment because where the tournament is being hosted, Japanese Encephalitis, tick borne encephalitis and rabies encephalitis are all contractable.
Robert's partner Sophie contracted Japanese Encephalitis while researching the illegal trade in orchids in Bangkok. She now lives in a care home for the elderly, is unable to move and is on a ventilator needing 24 hour care. It has now been four years since she contracted Japanese Encephalitis and it looks like there will never be improvement to her condition.
The vast majority of people have never heard of encephalitis, let alone Japanese, tick borne or rabies encephalitis but they are some of the only forms that are vaccine preventable. Even scarier is that one in three people who contract Japanese Encephalitis will die.
John and Robert, alongside CEO of the Encephalitis Society, Dr Ava Easton, are looking to raise awareness of the condition and encourage anyone travelling long haul to seek travel advice first.
Below is a video to explain more: