Joel Kpoku carries England flag to Challenge Cup final after leap of faith with Lyon

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It disturbs me a little that people still compare me to Maro!” he said. “He’s an exceptional player, yes, but I’m really trying to create my own name.” I’m not trying to be compared to anyone. I want to be consistent and take my game to another level. Love it here so far.

After being tracked since playing for England in the Under-20 World Cup, Kpoku moved to France on a two-year contract, putting aside any international ambitions. With Congolese parents, he is fluent in French and that helped make it a smooth transition.

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

“My confidence was quite low. Bath was also interested, but I spoke to people close to me and took a leap of faith. Thankfully it has worked out 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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