Opinion: James Haskell's natural leadership steering Wasps to success
Wasps fan Alex Chinery is full of praise for the co-captain who was a key man for England during the Six Nations.
A truly great leader is a once in a generation player for many clubs, and I am lucky enough, to have seen a Lawrence Dallaglio captained Wasps side during my time as a fan.
In the media you’ll often hear a good captain praised as being one that either leads by example, or as someone who has influence through what he says.
Great captains however excel at both, and in this category the likes of Dallaglio and Martin Johnson (for both England and Leicester) spring to mind. A colossus on the pitch and a strong motivator off it, there is simply no playing down the importance of a top captain.
As a club in recent seasons, Wasps have at times seemed rudderless, drifting in the middle-to-lower parts of the Premiership table. However the emergence as a leader of one player in particular has been a key factor in our rise up the table.
James Haskell divides opinion in the rugby world. He is often criticised by pundits and ex-professionals for his slightly eccentric personality, especially when the national team hasn’t had the best of times.
However captaincy and controversy go hand in hand - just think back to the pre-Grand Slam afternoon in Dublin in 2003 when Johnson was alleged to snub Irish leader Mary McAleese.
It is not avoiding controversy that makes a captain great, more so how he or she deals with the controversy, something Haskell does very well.
On the occasions I have met him, Haskell has always come across as a real club man, and is willing to stop and pose for pictures, sign autographs and generally chat to supporters. He is great with media and his open and sometimes frank attitude sets a great example to new players regarding the ethos of our club.
However his main contribution has undoubtedly come on the field, where he strikes a great balance between having a dialogue with the referee without overstepping the mark.
Coupled with the responsibility he has taken for on-field decision making, this allows other players to get on with showcasing their playing talents.
While for some players captaincy is too big an imposition, and they shrivel into themselves, Haskell revels in it and by playing some of the best rugby of his career he has played a key role in the revival of the club in recent years.
Any back row captain at Wasps is inevitably going to be compared with Dallaglio, however I believe the subtle eccentricities of Haskell’s character distinguish him from his predecessor. For me he has shown he isn’t the second Lawrence Dallaglio, but the first James Haskell.
All the club needs now is some long-awaited success and Haskell could go onto even greater things in the autumn of his career.
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