Haskell preparing for Massive Encounter
Wasps take part in their first European Semi Final for nine years this weekend and James Haskell says he is expecting a test-match level clash when they face Saracens in the European Champion Cup at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.
Haskell is the last remaining link at the club from the group that won the then Heineken Cup back in 2007. Since then the European tournament has become the European Champions Cup and Wasps has been through changes of it’s own, now returning to the knockout stages of Europe’s top competition after nine years away.
Ahead of this Saturday’s all-English clash with Saracens in Reading, Haskell says that this time around will be very different."It’s right up there for me. The first time around I was part of a different squad, a different era, with very different people. This time, unbelievably, I’m captain, we have got a whole new squad and a whole new set of coaches. It feels very different and very exciting."
For a long time we haven’t had any chance of silverware, I haven’t had any in my career except for a couple of bits with England, so it’s a massive opportunity to be playing for a chance to possibly pick some silverware up."This weekend Wasps face a Saracens side who have topped the league domestically all season, as well as dominating on the European stage, unbeaten in Pool 1 of the competition before seeing off the threat of Northampton Saints in the Quarter Final, beating them 29-20.As Wasps focus in on the challenge ahead of them, Haskell points to Saracens’ consistency as one of their strongest weapons.
"From our point of view, you have to be consistent. Nobody I know takes anything for granted. This Saturday we face a very tough Saracens side who have consistently been one of the best sides in the country for a long time."We have a very competitive back row grouping here at the club and that means that none of us can really switch off or be lazy. We have all helped each other become more rounded but we all know that if we don’t perform we won’t be in the side the following week.
"If anyone ever asks me what I’m doing at the end of the season with England or whatever I tell them that I’m worrying about the next weekend. I have to keep fighting my way into this side. Thomas Young has been outstanding for us, George Smith is obviously the legend that he is, Nathan Hughes is a big dynamic threat and the likes of Sam Jones, Guy Thompson and Alex Rieder are chomping at my heels. That’s a good environment to be a part of and it keeps you very focused."
The last matchup between the two sides saw Wasps run out 64-23 winners but, with most of their international contingent absent that day, Haskell says that this Saturday in Reading will be a very different challenge for the men in black and gold.
"It will be a totally different affair at the weekend in Reading. Saracens have got all their top players back involved, and they will be disappointed about what happened in the last game between us and will be looking to put that right."They are a very physical outfit, who pride themselves on their defence and I’m expecting a massive encounter. I’m expecting it to be test-match level and we have to be right at the top of our game."