Not long ago, Bath winger 'Roko' was serving in Afghanistan. Now he's set to make his England debut. Here he puts music, Manu and the military into his own words...

I get nervous running out at Twickenham. I played there for the Army against the Navy last month. When you’re playing in front of a big crowd for the servicemen, there are high expectations.

We have a good record against the Navy. The opposition changes every time; not tactically but the Navy’s game has gone up a level each time I’ve faced them. We’ve had a few Fijian internationals in recent years, which helps.

I’m enjoying myself at Bath. I’m happy with the way the club is going and how I’m doing personally. I appreciate all the efforts the coaches and management have put into me, and their feedback.

I have a son who’s one. His name is Elijah, and I live with him and my wife Annie in Bath. We’re all very happy here. Fiji is a beautiful place, but so is Bath!

Stuart Hooper is one of a kind. He’s a great leader, although all the senior guys at Bath are good. They might grab you at the end of training to go through something. Nick Abendanon and Matt Banahan have both been helpful to me.

anthony watson

Debut duo: Bath team-mate Anthony Watson is also preparing to face the All Blacks

I’ve gone from 84kg to 103kg. The coaches wanted me to put on weight because when you’re carrying more you can do more damage in attack and defence. Although it’s a lot harder to run around now!

Wasps away was my favourite game this season. I carried the ball a couple of times and managed to score two tries.

We know we’re better than Quins. We lost by just three points and missed out on the Premiership play-offs. It was disappointing and frustrating, individually and for the team, because we had so many opportunities and line breaks but didn’t convert them. We’ll use that feeling of losing and take it into future games.

I play the guitar. Last season I played to the boys but it didn’t go down too well! Music settles my nerves.

Manu Tuilagi is the toughest opponent I’ve faced. He’s a big unit. I tackled him a couple of times, but it neesd a few of our smaller lads to bring him down.

manu tuilagi

Handful: Roko says it takes a few men to bring Manu down

The rugby I’ve played in England is a different level and pace to Fiji. The accuracy levels expected from the coaches are higher, and the supporters are different too. At home, we rely on flair from sidesteps and goosesteps, whereas Bath have a game plan that all 15 players stick to.

You’ve got to be explosive. When you’ve got space, you need to accelerate and beat your opponent over those first few metres.

I was a tank driver in the Army. It takes six to eight months to learn to drive one. You learn everything about the machine from the engine to the tyres. I loved it, and enjoy learning something new. I trained in Dorset, then moved to Germany where my unit is.

Everything you learn in training is put to the test in Afghanistan. I was there for six months, and you’ve got grenades coming over your wall, suicide bombers, petrol bombs…

semesa rokoduguni army

Try time: Roko scores for the Army at Twickenham

It’s very stressful. But you’ve got to take your mind of that, otherwise you’ll put others at risk. I’m still a serving soldier so if my regiment needed me I’d go back. That’s unlikely, as troops are being withdrawn from Afghanistan now.

My brother and dad are also in the Army. My dad is in Egypt at the moment with the UN on a peace-keeping mission and my brother is in Scotland with the Black Watch.

I’m used to being away from my family now. In 1992-93 my father went away for over a year. I missed him but, as the oldest, I had to step up and look after my family. A lot of my family are still living in Fiji.

My Army background isn’t too different to my rugby one. In the Army you have eight to ten blokes, one commander and a plan. On the pitch you have 15 blokes, a captain and a game plan.

In Fiji rugby players are superstars. In Bath I get recognised sometimes. People want to say hello and ask about the Army or how I’m settling in.

You play rugby every day at home. There are just so many guys who could play for Fiji. They’ve got the chance to show the world what they can do on the pitch.

 

My goal is to play for England. I played for the Saxons against Scotland A in January and it was a step up. I can’t believe I’m here compared to where I was a few years ago. Last season my goal was simply to improve my game and get my skill level up. Now everything’s going so well.

Check out some of Roko’s highlights in the video below!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgIUKsoSaBg