Fiji, Germany, Brunei – at 20, Joe Cokanasiga has already lived in more countries than most manage in a lifetime.
The London Irish winger was born in Fiji, moved to England at the age of three, and yet it was in a sultanate better known for its vast wealth than its rugby, that Cokanasiga truly developed his love of the oval ball.
It was in Brunei that he and father Ilaitia, a member of the Army’s Royal Logistic Corps and the major reason for the Cokanasiga’s nomadic childhood, played together as a formidable centre pairing.
And rather than the youngster having to put in the hard yards for his father, it was Joe who was able to be the glory boy off the back of his dad’s exertions.
Honoured to have escorted the queen into the Fiji Exhibition. pic.twitter.com/ZtLijA10n3— RJC (@J_cokanasiga) January 27, 2017
"I went to Brunei at 14 and surprisingly, that is where I played the most rugby," Cokanasiga explains.
"I was playing adult rugby – the army would have their teams and the locals would have their teams and there would be a little league of four or five different teams and you would just play them.
"Me and my dad were in one team and that’s how I got involved. I’d let him do all the hard work and then I’d score some tries.
“My dad played at 12 and I played 13 but then when I moved over to England, I went out to the wing.”
The shift to the wing has clearly paid off for Cokanasiga. Last season he was a regular in the Greene King IPA Championship, and impressed so much that England head coach Eddie Jones brought him on the tour of Argentina in the summer as a teenager.
That international involvement was no flash in the pan. Now playing in the Aviva Premiership with London Irish, Cokanasiga was called back into England training at the start of January as injury cover.
He may have been on the losing side yesterday but it was still a special day for @LiRFC star Joe Cokanasiga— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) January 7, 2018
The winger scored his first Premiership try against @LeicesterTigers yesterday #LEIvLIR #AvivaPrem pic.twitter.com/6zldiaLpaN
He has not yet made his Test debut but as a youngster thrust into the England environment, the winger has learnt a lot.
"A lot of the boys had told me that Eddie was quite intense, so I was quite nervous going into camp," said Cokanasiga.
"But he definitely knows his stuff and that intensity he brings to all his camps and training sessions is probably why they are one of the best in the world. It was a good experience and I learned a lot.
"Going to Argentina definitely prepared me and built my confidence going into this season. I took a lot away from it.
"The guys I got to know were happy to tell us about how hard it can be – they were open with us and keen to help.
"The boys I went on tour with, the Curry brothers and Nick (Isiekwe), I’m quite close with them. We talk regularly."
On the defensive
For many, Cokanasiga first appeared on their radars when scoring a sensational try for Irish in a derby clash with London Scottish last season.
That try underlined his attacking prowess, but since then Cokanasiga has set his focus on becoming an imposing figure when he does not have the ball.
And with the likes of Alex Lewington, Topsy Ojo and Aseli Tikoirotuma to learn from in the Irish back line, Cokanasiga is not short of people to turn to for advice.
"Not many people want to be the best defensive winger but it’s something I’ve tried to work on since I first started. It was my weakness when I was younger but I’m trying to turn it into a strength," he added.
"I work a lot with Declan Danaher and also other wingers like Lewy, Topsy, Tiks and the other boys.
“They all defend differently but we try to follow a similar structure and it’s good to take ideas from them and compare it to mine.
“I need to get my kicking game better and then maybe one day I’ll be able to cover full-back. I’m better with the round ball for now.”
Cokanasiga is not lying when he jokes about the round ball, during his time living in Germany he played football rather than rugby.
Thankfully for London Irish and England, he has since settled on the oval ball. If his rapid rise to date is anything to go by, we might be hearing a lot more from ‘Big Joe’.