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'He’s the biggest winger I’ve ever coached' - Van Graan on Joe Cokanasiga

BATH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 23: Joe Cokanasiga of Bath Rugby celebrates scoring his second try, his team's third, with Alfie Barbeary during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Bath Rugby and Harlequins at Recreation Ground on December 23, 2023 in Bath, England. (Photo by Patrick Khachfe/Getty Images)

Bath head of rugby Johann van Graan was “incredibly happy” for wing Joe Cokanasiga following an impressive display in the 25-17 victory against Harlequins.


Cokanasiga’s powerful two-try performance helped to lift his club to the top of the Gallagher Premiership for Christmas.

Van Graan said: “Joe was very disappointed not to go to the World Cup. But there has been some very good communication from (England coach) Steve (Borthwick) and the England team about what he needs to work on.

“Aerially he has improved so much. I keep saying to him that he’s the biggest winger I’ve ever coached – and I’ve been fortunate to coach some good and very fast wingers.

“Joe’s size is something he can use so much. And he used it today.

“Those finishes! Like the one down in the left corner, he literally ran over three guys and still had the power to finish. I’m so happy for him.”

After registering a fifth bonus-point victory, Van Graan added: “We spoke about it in the week and said that there was a possibility of being top of the log.

“It makes Christmas a lot more enjoyable, but the most important thing is that the people of Bath are smiling and I’d like to think we gave them a good performance.


“All credit to Quins. It was 8-5 at half-time but it was like two heavyweight boxers, each punching back. That’s what makes the Premiership really special. There are so many teams and games are so close.”


He added: “We’ve got two more weeks in the Premiership and we’re away next weekend. This competition will ebb and flow right to the end, so for us it’s about using our squad, getting better every week and taking our opportunities. I felt we did that today.

“We’ll enjoy the win and we’ll enjoy Christmas. Then we look to the next one.”

Harlequins’ director of rugby Billy Millard said of a defeat that saw his side slip from third to sixth: “The kicking game, the aerial battle in that weather, was always going to be a big part of it and they did it very well.


“Because of that, we had to work really hard. So fair play to them, they managed that game – the kick-chase battle – really well.

“It’s definitely a long stretch, but there are no excuses today. We had a good week, we freshened up and, as I said, it was just execution stuff around that aerial battle in the conditions.

“We then started taking some high balls and we did get back into the game. But they did some amazing 50-22s that fell their way.

“Look, we always say that when we had those big wins against Sale and Racing we don’t get too high. And when you drop a game you can’t get too low. There were definitely some learnings there.

“We’re not too low on confidence. We’ve got Gloucester at The Big Stoop (Twickenham) and then it’s Newcastle away. There are so many good teams.

“The next fortnight is going to be important in keeping our position among the leading contenders.”


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