James Haskell insists England don’t need major change ahead of Six Nations
James Haskell believes those calling for sweeping changes after England’s disastrous World Cup Campaign are clueless.
The Red Rose begin the process of rebuilding after last autumn’s group exit when they face Scotland today in a Six Nations opener at Murrayfield fraught with danger. Jones has had only two weeks to shape his England team and has faced accusations of conservatism in selection after failing to pick a single debutant in a starting XV containing 512 caps.
The Australian knows his honeymoon period concludes when Calcutta Cup hostilities commence and, in anticipation of Scotland awaiting in ambush in Edinburgh, has put his faith in established internationals.
“It’s all been very positive so far, but it’s only been two weeks and we haven’t played a game so let’s not get too excited,” Haskell said. “You can prepare and focus however you want, but you don’t know what course the game will take. “
We’re playing a very good Scotland side in a hostile environment and no doubt there will be bad weather and a difficult pitch. We’re prepared for that kind of battle and the most important thing is that we get the win to get the ball rolling. The World Cup is done and dusted, we’ve got nothing to lose and we want to make sure we give a good account of ourselves.
“A lot of people want the new broom to sweep clean, but a lot of those people have no concept of what international rugby is actually like.”
Jones has promised to restore the traditional strengths of English rugby – a muscular pack bristling with savage intent and a strong set-piece – rather than seek to emulate the style of New Zealand or Australia.
Victory at Murrayfield is essential if he is to secure breathing space to make changes against Italy on Sunday week and Haskell leaves little doubt style will play second fiddle to the result.
“I’ve never been a part of an England team that hasn’t wanted to play an expansive or entertaining game,” Haskell said. “We’re trying to play a brand of rugby that we can be proud of and that will get us the win. But ultimately all I care about is winning.”
Newly-appointed England captain Dylan Hartley will enter the opener with the belief that everyone wants to see him “muck up”.
Hartley has been installed as skipper for the duration of the championship despite a lengthy disciplinary record comprising of over a year of bans for offences including gouging, biting and swearing at a referee.
“I’ve never prepared for a game so well because I don’t want to be shown up,” said Hartley, who has sought leadership advice from New Zealand great Sean Fitzpatrick.
“The captaincy thing, the whole media circus – the sideshow that I don’t really want to do but I understand that I have got to do – and everyone wanting to see me muck up is making me prepared for this game in a good way.
“Everyone wants to see people fail, don’t they? I just know it is out there, for whatever reason."
Meanwhile, Matt Scott has revealed some of his Scotland team-mates were so fired up to face England on their last visit to Murrayfield they were even moved to tears. But those pre-match sobs of raw emotion two years ago were soon replaced by a depressed wail at the final whistle as the Scots suffered a painful defeat.
The 20-0 drubbing remains a sore point for the Dark Blues, with Edinburgh centre Scott admitting he and his team-mates were too pumped up for the clash. Now he insists lessons have been learned and it will be a cooler, more collected side today.
“The last time England were here we went way over the mark in terms of emotion,” said Gloucester-bound Scott. “Boys were even tearing up in the changing room before the game. But it was an awful experience but I think we’ve learned we need to take a step back, put our cool heads on and play a bit of smart rugby.”
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