Haskell is Eddie’ Dragon Slayer of Choice
Wasps' James Haskell is Eddie Jones' Dragon Slayer of choice!
England boss Eddie Jones has called on his longest standing player to share memories of facing Wales in Cardiff with the rest of the squad.
Step forward former Wasps skipper James Haskell - never a man short of a word - to recount details of the 2015 tunnel stand-off, the 2013 ambush under the new roof and earlier skirmishes.
Jones has identified that England’s record at Wales’ recently renamed Principality Stadium, and previous Cardiff venues, shows only 21 wins from 61 games since 1882.
This is significantly lower than other Six Nations venues, and England’s Australian head coach believes fully preparing his players for the Welsh on-and-off-field onslaught will help them confront their dragon demons.
Haskell’s record in the Welsh capital is played six, won two, lost four, including the harrowing 30-3 collapse at the Principality Stadium in 2013. This was a Grand Slam decider for Stuart Lancaster’s team, who froze in the face of a cacophony of noise in the enclosed stadium, were bested in the scrum by Adam Jones and as a result never in the contest.
More recently Wasps’ former skipper was part of the Friday night 21-16 triumph two years ago, to which he was significant contributor. This match began with then-England skipper Chris Robshaw refusing to lead his team from the tunnel to the field until he had evidence that Wales would follow, which created a lengthy stand-off and late kick off.
So, as a man well versed in Welsh ambushes, on Monday morning, it fell to Haskell to address the squad on what to expect.
“You know you what Wales are going to do. As a team they are very direct. But it is one thing knowing, it another thing stopping it,” he said.
“We have to go there solely focused on ourselves but understand exactly what it is about.
“When we went there and lost the Grand Slam in 2013 we were a bit wet behind the ears in terms of what to expect.
“Last time we understood that - there were guys who had that previous experience and we have that in the squad now, and are ready to kick on.
“It is about not being distracted by the side-show that goes with it. It is about not being distracted by the crowd and the noise. You have to go there, deliver your job, then leave.
“Everyone wants to beat England. Everyone is always hostile, especially to me, and the Principality Stadium is up there as the Welsh are passionate fans.”
Haskell famously ran full-tilt into one of the posts at the stadium two years ago as he charged towards the line in search of a rare England try.
Typically, as a man who is renowned for his sense of humour, he now manages to see the funny side of an incident which has become a You Tube sensation.
“That was the closest I have been to scoring a try in a while,” he said. “Everyone laughed at it but I almost broke my neck.
“I managed to not lose the ball and we scored the next phase, so I will take that. I thought I would do the old hit-and-spin, but unfortunately my radar was a bit off.
“These things happen - it has made a great highlight reel and comedy so I have at least brought that to the world.”
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