England boss Brian Ashton has compared Lesley Vainikolo's arrival on the international scene with that of another rugby league legend - Jason Robinson.
Former Bradford Bulls try machine Vainikolo is poised to make his England debut off the bench in Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations showdown against Wales at Twickenham.
The Tonga-born New Zealand rugby league international qualified for England on residency, and head coach Ashton wasted little time to bring the juggernaut Gloucester wing on board.
It evokes the memory of Robinson’s England arrival seven years ago - and he went to win a World Cup, reach the final of another and captain his country.
Ashton said: “I have been impressed more than anything by his footballing skills.
“He has this reputation of being a big, strong, powerful, direct runner, but he has more than that. He is a great personality and he has fitted in really well.
“There is a similar sort of excitement among the players, coaches and management as there was when Jason Robinson appeared in 2001.”
England are unbeaten against Wales at Twickenham since 1988, and Vainikolo can expect to play some part in the action.
He is among more than half of England’s match-day squad who were not involved in the World Cup final just over three months ago.
Post-tournament international retirements mean Robinson, Lawrence Dallaglio, Mike Catt and Martin Corry are no longer around, while injuries have sidelined Nick Easter, Joe Worsley and Peter Richards.
England, RBS 6 Nations also-rans in the past four seasons following their Grand Slam triumph in 2003, cannot afford to slip up against Wales, given that they then face consecutive away games against Italy, France and Scotland.
Ashton’s men recovered from a dreadful start to the World Cup, to claim victory over Samoa, Tonga, Australia and France before South Africa defeated them in a tense final.
And Ashton said: “The edge is still there because this is international rugby, and the edge is still there because it is England versus Wales, which is one of the big games of the Six Nations.
“There is a pressure. The fact it is an international game and England are playing means there is pressure.
“The players know that, but it is not something you harp on about all week. The players have enough to deal with.
“We want to take our game forward, but the key thing is to get the basics right.
“If we can take our game forward, then fantastic. If we don’t, I couldn’t give a monkeys if we win the game.”
Wales, with the likes of James Hook, Gavin Henson and Shane Williams in the back division, have enough match-winners to end their barren Twickenham run.
But perhaps the biggest single threat to England is influential flanker Martyn Williams, who has been persuaded out of international retirement by new coach Warren Gatland.
Ashton added: “Our players are well aware of what Martyn Williams brings to the side.
“I have massive respect for anyone who puts his foot on an international field, for whatever country.
“Martyn Williams has proved over the years that he is one of the outstanding players in world rugby.”