Haskell hoping for Euro History Repeat
The last time the Wasps skipper James Haskell played in a European Cup semi-final he was in a side that beat English opposition - and he scored a try!
Nine years on and the England Grand Slam hero will be hoping that history repeats itself when he leads his side out against a Saracens side determined to break the European hoodoo that has condemned every unbeaten side from the pool stages to a defeat in the knock-out stages ever since the competition went to home and away games in the early exchanges.
Back in 2007 it was Lawrence Dallaglio who was the 'old head' in the Wasps back row. They went on to bat Northampton Saints in the semi-finals and then Leicester Tigers in the final to notch their second triumph. These days Haskell is backed up by George Smith in the role of senior pro up front for Wasps.
Having warmed-up with an eight try triumph at Worcester Warriors last weekend to clinch a first Aviva Premiership play-off place since 2008, Wasps will go into Saturday's semi-final at the Madejski Stadium full of confidence. But Haskell knows there can be no room for complacency against the only side above them in their domestic league.
"They will be disappointed defensively by what happened last time (Wasps won 64-23, scoring eight tries) and so we can expect a massive rev-upon that side. They have so many players with individual skill that can cause you all sorts of problems," said Haskell.
"They have a shopping list of danger men and we have to identify their threats, but also be confident in our own ability. Obviously, Owen Farrell is there to pull the strings and Billy Vunipola is a devastating ball carrier.
"Then you have Maro Itoje and George Kruis in the second row, who will be looking to put a lot of pressure on our line-out and set-piece. They have quality, but so do we.
"I think we have the quality to beat Saracens and to move onto the next stage. Whether it goes that way on game day is down to us."
Haskell knows all about preparing for the big occasion from his early years at Wasps, during his career at Stade Francais Paris, when he reached a Challenge Cup final, and, more recently, with England's Grand Slam side in the RBS 6 Nations.
"It is going to come down to how we prepare this week. European weeks are very special in their nature and it's not just about the physical preparation," he added.
"A lot of work is necessary, but not just on the field because you have to leave no stone unturned in trying to get the right result. We are very pleased with the way things are going at the club and, when you play against a team like Saracens, you have to play your way.
"We'll have to deal with their threats, but we mustn't try to mimic the way they play. We are going to try to play the Wasps way.
"An occasion like this is going to be a Test match in every respect. They have quality players and we have to understand that when you play in a Test match you can't leave anything in the tank - it's the biggest game the club has had in a long time."