James Haskell vows to fight fire with fire
James Haskell vows to fight fire with fire as flanker calls on England to match Wales passion in Six Nations battle
England are already preparing for the cauldron that will be the Principality Stadium when Wales host the defending Six Nations champions on Saturday, that much was clear from Eddie Jones’s words after his side squeezed past France at the weekend. With Jones somewhat concerned about how England started the match, he is already looking to turn around the poor record that the red rose holds in the Welsh capital, and will spend this week searching for the root cause of the trend that sees Wales win 60 per cent of their matches against the English on home soil.
So he will welcome the sight of his players trying to identify the issue for themselves, with fit-again flanker James Haskell calling on the squad to match the passion that will be on full display this weekend.
Regardless of whether Wales’s plan to have the roof on the Principality Stadium closed – at England’s discretion – the match will be played in darkness thanks to its 16:50 kick-off.
Wales will happily turn down the lights, ramp up the noise and make England’s arrival in the minutes before kick-off as uncomfortable as possible. Haskell though has called on his teammates to fight fire with fire.
“Going to Wales, it is a huge rugby heartland with very passionate fans and a great stadium, players love going there and pitching themselves against the Welsh,” Haskell said after making his return to international rugby as a second-half replacement against France at the weekend to help secure the 19-16 comeback victory.
“It is important to play our own game, understand Wales will come at us a very fired up side and you need to match that passion and worry about your own preparation and what you will do and deal with the game in little sections. If anything goes right, realise why it is going right and keep doing it. If something goes wrong, how can we adjust it on the spot? That is what sides have done there when we have won.”
England’s last trip across the River Severn proved exactly that. Whether part of the mind games that surround these fixtures or simply a statement of intent, England – led by Chris Robshaw back in 2015 – refused to take to the pitch until Wales were ready to do so. Robshaw was fully aware that the last time England ventured west, they were left in the dark for minutes before Wales emerged, and promptly suffered a 30-3 defeat that cost them the championship as well as the Grand Slam.
Instead, Robshaw and Sam Warburton faced off in the tunnel until both teams were forced to go out onto the pitch. Wales struck first, but England rallied from first 10-0 down and later 16-8 to triumph 16-21, adapting as the Haskell – the blindside flanker that day – acknowledges.
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