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Semesa Roko equipped for the pressure of England duty

By Duncan Bech

England debutant Semesa Rokoduguni draws parallels between life in the British Army and international rugby - with one vital exception.

Rokoduguni has been selected on the right wing for tomorrow's QBE Series opener against New Zealand at Twickenham on the strength of the pace and power he has displayed in an impressive start to the season with Bath.

As a serving soldier with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, the Fijian-born 27-year-old was deployed in Afghanistan in 2011 and it took only a week to experience the horrors of war when a marine he was on patrol with lost both legs after stepping on a mine.

Since joining the England camp Rokoduguni has satisfied the curiosity of his new team-mates eager for stories from Afghanistan.

"They've been asking me questions about the Army and what it's like being out there," Rokoduguni said. "I told them it is pretty similar to what you guys feel - the only difference is that here there is always a next time. Next week you can come back stronger.

"Out there in Afghanistan you have to be on top of your drills every single time because if you mess up that can cost someone their life."

Kyle Eastmond, who lines up at inside centre against the All Blacks, summed up the temperament of his Bath team-mate with the words: "The way he's been playing, I don't think he knows what pressure is".

It is a theme taken up by Rokoduguni, who insists his experiences in the Army have left him well prepared for his rapid ascension to Test rugby after just two years at the Recreation Ground.

"It is similar to the pressure I felt out there in Afghanistan, especially in the field," Rokoduguni said.

"Out there in Afghanistan you had to be spot on with your drills, be punctual, dress correctly and be disciplined. You had to be alert every single moment.

"That sort of mentality fits in well on the rugby pitch. You need all those key points out there on the field. If you're not there on time you miss the opportunity to score a try and it can cost the team.

"I take pride from representing the Army and England. It's a massive thing, especially on Remembrance weekend.

"It's not just representing England, my family and Bath, it's representing the whole armed forces in Afghanistan. I'm representing every single one of them."

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