Haskell planning to hold down England place despite critics
James Haskell should be basking in the glory of being an England Grand Slam champion but instead finds himself having to defend his place in Eddie Jones’s team.
Having been cast in the role of the next Lawrence Dallaglio after breaking into the Wasps team in 2002 and then with England in 2007, Haskell found himself constantly battling for a Test starting place until Jones arrived as head coach in December. The Australian chose Haskell as his openside flanker but already there is talk that the 31-year-old, who has 67 caps, could be jettisoned for this summer’s three-Test tour Down Under.
As he prepares to face Exeter in the European Champions Cup quarter-final at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday, Haskell is bursting with pent up energy as he talks about the latest threat to his Test career.
“It was amazing to win the Grand Slam but as soon as the engraving was finished on the trophy I heard from friends I was being written off by critics for the summer tour because of the hard grounds in Australia!” says Haskell. “It goes to show how brutal sport is and all I can do is be professional, work hard and make sure my club form is good.”
Haskell is media savvy and knows how to grab attention. In his moment of triumph in the England dressing room after clinching the Slam in Paris last month, there was a picture of him holding a T-shirt with 6 and half on it posted on Twitter. Also pictured was Chris Robshaw, making the same statement about their critics who claimed neither player was a real England No7. Robshaw was a willing participant in the incident but it was Haskell who had requested the kit man to source the shirts. That kind of incident only helps to polarise opinion about the Wasps captain.
Haskell now finds himself leading a team brimming with confidence as they seek the twin targets of a European Champions Cup and Aviva Premiership double.
“We are not looking at this as our year but it is an opportunity for us [the Champions Cup and the Premiership],” says Haskell. “But, we will not get ahead of ourselves. We need to get our performance out there because Exeter are ahead of us in the Premiership and are a very dangerous side.”
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