James Haskell won’t be giving up to Sam Burgess without a fight

James Haskell won’t be giving up to Sam Burgess without a fight

James Haskell will not give up his England No.6 jersey lightly and has warned Sam Burgess he faces a major battle for that World Cup spot.

Wasps captain Haskell started all England’s Six Nations matches on the blindside but anticipates a huge challenge from such as Northampton’s Tom Wood and Union novice Burgess, who has impressed there for Bath.

Bullish Haskell is undaunted, though, telling TRP: “It’s going to be a huge back-row battle and there’s the looming presence of Sam Burgess.

“I haven’t seen a lot of Sam close up but I rate him as a player and he seems very honest and down to earth. He was a fantastic Rugby League player and we’ll have to see how he goes, but I’ve always relished a challenge.

“When I first came through at Wasps we had guys like Lawrence Dallaglio, Joe Worsley, Jonny O’Connor, Paul Volley and Dan Leo, but I played and if you’ve got any desire to be the best in the shirt you’ve got to just work your way through.

“Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw, Calum Clark, Matt Kvesic, Billy Vunipola and Ben Morgan – there are back-rows coming out of the woodwork and now we’ve got centres like Sam who think they’re back-rows as well.

“Let’s hope Lawrence doesn’t come out of retirement or we’re all in trouble, but I’m just looking to hit the ground running now.”

Haskell, one of England’s most experienced campaigners with 58 caps, grew in stature during a season of upheaval at Wasps in which the club flourished on and off the field following the controversial move to Coventry.

When the brickbats were flying in December, Haskell stood up before leading the club to sixth place and Champions Cup qualification.

“It was a tough time,” he said. “We got criticised quite dramatically and, in a world where social media and the internet gives a voice to those who don’t necessarily deserve it, we had all the lunatics coming out with their madness.

“It was a challenge but I really care about this club so it was an opportunity for me to just stand up and go on the front line. People had to listen, which was nice, and when they understood they were fine.

“I’ve really enjoyed the year, both with Wasps and England. I think I’ve come on as a player and I always want to work on my game to get even better. There’s more to come and I’m desperate to be involved in the World Cup.”

Having helped to re-establish Wasps among the elite, Haskell is equally keen to follow in the footsteps of his great mentor and friend Dallaglio by winning silverware, something the club has not achieved since 2008.

Haskell, 30, said: “Lawrence was a unique individual and I’m just trying to carve my own furrow now, but you can only learn from working under captains like him and if I can win as much as he did, that would be my dream.

“I haven’t been copying Lawrence’s team talks, contrary to what Andy Goode says, but silverware is the next step for us. I don’t play rugby for the hell of it, I play it to win trophies and compete hard for them in every competition I play.

“I was very spoilt earlier in my career, winning Premierships and a Heineken Cup with Wasps, and now it’s about doing it again.

“We’re a good side, well coached, and we believe we can be a side to be reckoned with next season.”

For now, Haskell has his sights set on England’s summer training camp.

He added: “It’s always a daunting challenge and you know you’ll have to go to some dark places, but it feels different to 2011 and everything’s a lot more organised. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just set the highest standards we can.

“Graham Rowntree’s got a good pack of forwards and hopefully I can be part of it. I’m not going mad now, but once the squad’s been cut down and you’re facing that first World Cup game against Fiji, then you can start to dream about ‘what if?’.”

– Entry was posted on May 27th, 2015 by James Haskell

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