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Joel Kpoku flies the flag for English in the Challenge Cup final after leap of faith with Lyon

Joel Kpoku flies the English flag in the Challenge Cup final after reaping the rewards of a leap of faith with Lyon… and admits he is ‘disturbed’ by comparisons to Maro Itoje

  • Joel Kpoku played for England at the 2018 France U-20 World Cup
  • The 22-year-old went through the academy at Saracens but left the club last year.
  • He moved to France on a two-year contract, setting aside any international ambitions.

England flag-bearer Joel Kpoku has rediscovered his love of rugby as he prepares to lead Lyon in Friday’s Challenge Cup final.

Lock will be one of only two English players in the European title deciders, with Toulon prop Kieran Brookes also set to feature.

Kpoku, 22, dropped off the radar when he left Saracens last year but earned comparisons to Maro Itoje after his man-of-the-match show against the Wasps.

England forward Joel Kpoku will lead Lyon's charge in Friday's Challenge Cup final

England forward Joel Kpoku will lead Lyon’s charge in Friday’s Challenge Cup final

‘I’m a little taken aback that I’m still being compared to Maro!’ he said. “He’s an exceptional player, yes, but I’m really trying to make my own name.” I’m not trying to be compared to anyone. I want to be consistent and take my game to another level. I love being here so far.

Having been tracked since playing for England at the U-20 World Cup, Kpoku moved to France on a two-year deal, putting any international ambitions aside. Born to Congolese parents, he is fluent in French and that helped make the transition seamless.

“I wanted to start over and walk away,” he said. ‘I felt I was lost in the world of rugby. I had fallen silent and it was time to rejuvenate myself again.

‘My confidence was pretty low. Bath was also interested, but I spoke to those close to me and took a leap of faith. Fortunately it has worked so far.

The powerful striker has been compared to England star Maro Itoje

The powerful striker has been compared to England star Maro Itoje


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