Haskell says he is nowhere near finished with England
Wasps skipper James Haskell played a key role for England in their Six Nations Grand Slam.
The experienced flanker, who has won most of his caps wearing the No.6 shirt, switched to openside under new coach Eddie Jones to good effect.
He started alongside Billy Vunipola and Chris Robshaw in all five matches, culminating in a bloodied-but-triumphant battle with France.
Haskell is something of a ‘Marmite’ character about whom England fans hold divided opinions regarding both his big personality and best onfield position.
The Grand Slam has at least temporarily silenced his critics, after which Haskell shared his international rugby perspectives with Coventry Telegraph rugby writer Paul Smith.
He began by explaining how he found his first eight-week period under former Australia and Japan coach Jones’ management.
“What Eddie wanted from us, and how he spoke to us was important”.
“There are different kinds of coaches and different kinds of people, some who are very task-orientated and some who are people-focused.”
“Eddie sits very well in the middle and he knew how to get the best out of his players, how to motivate them, how to speak to them.”
“I’ve been involved with England for a long time, and it was the first real time I’ve come into that camp and felt confident.
“I felt respected and felt valued within the squad, which was a good thing for me”.
“It’s what I want and it’s how Dai Young treats me at Wasps – you feel that the hard work you put in is noticed and that it’s not one rule for someone and another for somebody else.”
“For me personally, the dynamic worked as we’re allowed to be individuals off the field while also toeing the line. Eddie sets a high standard in his coaching and all the coaches were very approachable.”
“There are times for coaches to scream and shout and to dictate, but as a player you never intend to make a mistake and go out of the system.”
“So it’s important to sit down with the coach and go ‘listen, I thought I was going to do this here, what did you think?’ and if the bloke is losing his head it doesn’t help you.
“Sometimes that’s required and the best answer is ‘shut up and get on with it,’ but most of the time it’s about players wanting that dialogue and looking to improve and that’s the way we should be treated”
Haskell had only a fringe involvement with England under Jones’ predecessor Stuart Lancaster.
While being at pains to stress that he got on well with Lancaster and his coaching lieutenants on a personal level, Haskell said he never felt fully included by the regime, perhaps because of his involvement with Martin Johnson’s ill-fated 2011 World Cup campaign from which Lancaster’s staff sought to distance themselves.
“In terms of where I was playing and the way I was seen, the last environment was a difficult one for me.”
“If you asked them they’d probably say differently, but I just felt that after playing around the world and done what I’ve done, I was kept out of the way as a bit of a dirty secret.”
“It sort of felt like ‘ We need to pick you but...’ and it was just different with that lot.
“I think having experience should be valued, there is a reason I’ve been around so long, you can steal one or two caps, but you can’t steal 67.
“It’s important to know how to get the best out of players, I’m somebody that always is a confidence player and needs to feel valued and respected.”
“I’ll go away and work on my game and put my body on the line for you, but if you don’t talk to me like that and I don’t feel like we’ve got any understanding then it’s difficult to get the best from me.
“I can’t say I didn’t enjoy my time under Stuart and those guys, I just felt that I came in late to the party.”
“In 2012 when they all met together they formulated a whole new environment, a whole new thing I wasn’t part of, as I was part of the old regime.
“It wasn’t a great World Cup for us or for me personally in 2011 – the stuff off the field was never an issue, I just wasn’t preferred over the other guys.
“I got on well with all the coaches, I did enjoy it under Stuart, but it’s just different again this time.”
“I was never involved in the leadership stuff and was never asked about that kind of thing.”
“It becomes difficult when you ignore somebody’s who’s been around for a while and done that kind of stuff.”
“Maybe I wasn’t playing well enough, but I haven’t played any differently this season to any of the past few seasons with Wasps.”
“Dai and all the staff at Wasps have got the best from me and all I’ve done is follow my form and raise my game for England”
Haskell is still only 31 and believes he has several years of international rugby ahead of him providing his club form remains at a high level.
“I hope I have more years in me. The thing with the current squad is there is so much competition and however well you’re treated in that environment, Eddie is very clear, it’s about winning.”
“So if I’m the best man to do the job at the time, then fine I’ll be involved, but if you don’t play well for your club, don’t perform, then you won’t feature.”
“Honesty is all you can ask as a player, it’s like ‘listen I’m doing well for my club, do I have a chance?’
“If your face doesn’t fit then it’s important to know that and if it’s down to ‘you know we prefer other players’ then that’s another thing.”
“Otherwise, if you go away and fix it and you still aren’t picked then it’s pointless – all you want is honesty and directness and with Eddie and his coaches you always get that”.
England play a three-Test series in Australia in June, and if Haskell keeps the No.7 shirt this will pit him directly against David Pocock, who is considered by many to currently be the outstanding openside flanker in world rugby.
Wasps’ skipper says he hopes to be in the starting line-up for the first test, and if selected will not be intimidated by facing a man who possesses the traditional No.7 skills which Haskell’s critics say he lacks.
“It’s a long way off, we have a lot of rugby to play between now and then and injuries and other things can make the team look very different.”
“When we go there we have to be aware of the threats Australia pose, and they have three very, very good back-row players.”
“If I was to start No.7 against Pocock, it’s not about me managing him the entire game, that’s not how it works. Everybody has a role to play, every time he has played, especially in the World Cup, he wasn’t dealt with by any team.
“He was the best back-rower in the world at that time, but before that it was Richie McCaw, there is always somebody vying for that position.
“People talk about the balance of the back-row and that worked quite well in the Six Nations. We had three different players, whereas before we had similar players, with Billy Vunipola being the only distinct difference.
“Any time you come together and play you have to be confident that your back-row can do a job, whoever you play against.”
“I’ve never taken to the field and felt intimidated by a back-rower. Whenever you put that white shirt on you believe you can beat anyone and whoever gets selected in any position all believe that.”
“I believe England can go over there and win and whoever takes the field will do a job.”