I was a bit of dirty secret says Haskell
James Haskell: I was a dirty secret under Stuart Lancaster
James Haskell says he was sidelined “as a bit of a dirty secret” by former England coach Stuart Lancaster but believes that his replacement, Eddie Jones, is finally getting the best out of the Wasps flanker.
Under Lancaster, Haskell frequently had to play second fiddle to Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood. Although he started every game in the 2015 Six Nations, his only start in the World Cup came in the dead rubber against Uruguay. A rambunctious character, there is a sense that Haskell’s face did not fit the previous regime.
“In terms of where I was playing and the way I was seen in the last environment it was a difficult one for me,” Haskell said. “If you ask them they would probably say differently but I just felt that, having played around the world and done what I have done, I was kept out of the way as a bit of a dirty secret. It is different with that lot.
“You have got to be encouraged – there is a reason why I have been around, you can steal one or two caps but you can’t steal 67. I am a confidence player and someone who works on his game and I will put my body on the line for you.”
Haskell, who made his international debut nine years ago, is England’s longest serving player having been granted his bow in the 2007 Six Nations against Wales.
A further 66 caps and four coaches later, five including Rob Andrew’s brief spell in charge, and Haskell has found his groove in a back row alongside Robshaw and Billy Vunipola that helped to deliver England the grand slam in their 31-21 victory against France.
Haskell finished that match bloodied and bruised and was subsequently granted the week off, which he spent in Dubai, by Dai Young, his director of rugby at Wasps, to heal both body and mind.
Reflecting on a first Six Nations title since 2011, which was achieved with largely the same group of players available to Lancaster, Haskell directed much of the credit towards Jones’s man-management skills.
“Eddie knows how to get the best out of his players, how to talk to them, how to motivate them, how to speak to them,” Haskell said.
“I have been involved with England for a long time and it is the first time I have come into that camp and felt confident, felt respected and felt like I was of value to the squad. That is a good thing, that is what I want, it is how Dai treats me here.
“You want to feel like you are respected and all the hard work you have put in is noticed. It is not one rule for one and one rule for someone else.
“It’s understanding how the team worked, how the dynamic worked, being allowed to be individuals off the field as well as toeing the party line.”
Haskell knows not to expect any favours from Jones. He complains that the Australian steals his best lines for the press conferences – “I made the quality joke and it’s been robbed” – and he certainly does not assume that his place his safe for the tour to Australia.
After the grind of the Six Nations, there is also a very different challenge lurking Down Under in the shape of David Pocock who proved to be England’s nemesis during their World Cup pool stage match.
“In the World Cup he wasn’t dealt with and was the best component there in the world,” Haskell said. “It’s a long way off, we have a lot of rugby between now and then but you have to be confident you can do a job. I’ve never taken to a field and felt intimated, well, perhaps when Henry Tuilagi was running at you. But that was about the only time.
“Whenever you put that white shirt on you believe you can beat anyone. I reckon England can go there and win.”
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