Haskell wary of old pal Sergio Parisse
Wasps’ skipper James Haskell played a starring role in England’s solid opening round Six Nations win in Edinburgh last Saturday, and is embracing his new role as the team’s elder statesman.
The 30-year-old flanker made a best-of-the-day 22 tackles during his country’s eighth consecutive Calcutta Cup triumph, and in the process won praise from new red rose supremo Eddie Jones.
Haskell seems likely to switch from the openside flank to blindside for Sunday’s clash with the Azurri. Jacques Brunel’s side are still seeking a first Six Nations win over England, and Haskell said he is expecting the Italians to have learned from Scotland’s approach ahead of their 16th attempt.
“Scotland were extremely dogged and I expect Italy to be the same,” he said, “and they will be equally physical in the forward pack.
“Italy will have looked at how Scotland played against us, where they found some joy in a couple of areas, and no doubt they will focus on those.
“They will see us as a new team coming to their back-yard, and they will want to put on a performance. They will no doubt come hard at us in the first 20 minutes, very much like Scotland did, and we have to ensure we weather that storm."
No.8 Sergio Parisse has been Italy’s stand-out player for the last decade, and is a man well-known to Haskell from the two seasons they spent together in the back row at Stade Francais.
“Sergio has been, and still is, one of the best back row players in the world,” Haskell said.
“He has that X-factor that everyone talks about, with an array of skills that most people are very jealous of.
“As a team, we all have to contain his threat, it’s not just down to the back row man-on-man. ideally you always want to get one up on your opposite number, but if he’s on the opposite side of the field, and two backs are in front of him, they’ve got to make the tackle and clear out.
“So we are aware of their threats, and Sergio is certainly a talisman that we have earmarked, but while you have respect for guys like him, you first have to take care of yourselves.
“Contrary to all the talking I do off the field, I don’t really speak to the opposition on it unless provoked, and I don’t expect to hear from him during the game.
“I have been mates with Sergio for six or seven years, and I texted him this morning and am looking forward to catching up with him afterwards.”
The Azurri’s new half back pairing of Edoardo Gori and Carlo Canna produced a fine display during their narrow defeat in France last weekend.
Italy have struggled to find an authoritative No.10 since Diego Dominguez retired more than a decade ago and Haskell said England are aware of what the pair are capable of.
“Italy’s No.9 and No.10 are very threatening,” he said. “If you look at the trouble they cause opponents they are both dangerous players.
“The fly half is a new addition, so he’s someone we’re obviously going to be aware of when we do our analysis in the week and come to put our game-plan together.
“You shouldn’t just focus in on one man, you have to respect all the opposition and deal with them accordingly. But first and foremost you worry about what you can control, which is your own preparation and how you are going to impose yourself on the match.
“We had a day off on Sunday, but then have come straight back into training, and as Eddie said the preparation doesn’t always have to be perfect, providing we’re working hard and addressing the right issues, so we’ll then be ready to go away to Rome at the end of the week."
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