Lions Watch - 2
British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has described England captain Dylan Hartley as a man who has the right qualities needed to lead his side in New Zealand next year.
Gatland was appointed coach on Wednesday for a second time with hopes of winning on foreign soil again. Within the first day taking the role, he commented on the England captaincy, giving a positive assessment of Hartley's credentials for the job.The other contendersChosen for the last tour as captain was Wales' captain, Sam Warburton. His fellow Welshman Alun Wyn Jones led the side in the final test while Warburton was nursing his injury.
However, times have changed since then.Some players have improved while others haven't reached the potential they showed down under. Doubts have been raised about Jones' place in the starting lineup because of the sudden rise of England & Saracens pair Maro Itoje and George Kruis.
Meanwhile the likes of James Haskell, Justin Tipuric and John Hardie are battling with Warbuton for the openside flanker role. Ireland's hopes of captaincy are thin with Rory Best and Jamie Heaslip not being the best in their positions. Although Peter O'Mahony is seen by some as the man for the captaincy, recent injuries don't help his case.
Gatland's comments in speaking about the England hooker have lead many to believe that he already knows his captain. The Lions coach was quick to cite Hartley's improvement in discipline while also highlighting the importance of players in the squad possessing a winning mentality. This is something Hartley is familiar with having not lost with England since taking over as captain.
James Haskell admits pressure is on Wasps this season
James Haskell talks injury, England and Wasps, and also answered your questions live
James Haskell admits the pressure will be on Wasps to perform this season following the arrival of several high-profile signings this summer.
Kurtley Beale, Willie Le Roux, Danny Cipriani and Kyle Eastmond have all made the move to Coventry, joining the likes of Elliot Daly, Christian Wade and Joe Simpson in a back-line brimming with danger men.
The addition of all that attacking talent has seen Wasps installed as second favourites behind champions Saracens to win this season's Aviva Premiership title and Haskell says the onus is now on the players to justify the hype.
Haskell told Sky Sports News HQ: "It is very exciting for the club. Obviously Wasps have had a huge turnaround from where we were three or four years ago. Boys weren't getting paid, things were pretty negative and the club almost had to fold.
"Derek Richardson, the owner, came in and relocated us to Coventry. We've had some amazing reaction to that. So many fans are travelling from the old days. We are getting 17,500 people to games.
"Accordingly we have signed some big, exciting players - Danny (Cipriani) being one of them. He is one of the best fly-halves in England. It will be really good to get to see him firing.
"Kurtley Beale is one of the best-known players in world rugby. We've got Willie Le Roux coming.
"I think it will be great but it does pile more pressure onto us. We have to make sure we perform."
Wasps finished third in the table last season before losing 34-23 to Exeter Chiefs in the play-off semi-finals.
Haskell won Premiership and Heineken Cup titles with Wasps early in his career but the club have not tasted silverware since he returned to begin his second stint with the team in 2012.
That is something Haskell, who is facing four to six months out after he required reconstructive surgery on his big toe, is determined to change.
"We went well last season but we fell at the final hurdle," said the 31-year-old.
"Lots of boys don't play to take part, they play for silverware. I was lucky enough in my early career to have those opportunities and we are all super hungry to get back to those days."
England rugby star fools 5 live phone-in
Wasps captain and England international James Haskell tells Sonja McLaughlan about the time he made it onto a 5 live phone-in as James from Coventry.
After hearing a debate about the legacy of the Rio Olympics, Haskell phoned up Nicky Campbell's Your Call to contribute but nobody recognised the England rugby star.
Haskell said: "The bloke said to me on the phone, 'what is your name' I said James Haskell. He said 'what do you do' I said I play rugby.
"Then somebody called me back and said they were going to put me on and the best thing was
Nicky said, 'we have got James from Coventry. I think you said you play a bit of rugby?' I went yes I do.
"I do not know who was more embarrassed me or him but I just wanted to make my point, maybe because I am injured and had no-one to talk to I thought I would share it with the nation."
The clip is taken from 5 live sport on Tuesday 30 August 2016 - Listen Here
England rugby stars Hartley, Brown and Haskell model new England kit
England rugby stars Dylan Hartley, Mike Brown and James Haskell talk about overcoming difficult times in a video in which they wear the new Canterbury England kit
Haskell determined to come back fitter than ever for England
England flanker James Haskell insists he will be pushing as hard as possible to be back from a toe injury in time to make his case for a spot in Eddie Jones' side looking to defend their RBS 6 Nations title next year.
"The surgeon said four to six months, I will try to be pushing back for four."
The 31-year-old was instrumental for the Red Rose in their successful tour Down Under this summer, being named man of the series in England's 3-0 victory over Australia, despite missing the final Test.
But Haskell has had to go under the knife in recent weeks to have a piece of his sesamoid bone removed and some tendons re-attached, and is expected to be out of action for four to six months.
And with the English Premiership and Autumn Internationals on the horizon, Haskell is desperate to get back to full fitness as soon as possible, and return a better player than before.
"I had been playing for five or six games with anaesthetic in my foot towards the end of the season, because it just got more and more sore," he told Sky Sports.
"I saw a specialist and nothing else was going to happen to it but then, in that second Test, I must have weakened something called the plantar plate, and had to have an operation.
"I was in for about two and a half hours under the knife and the surgeon says he has done his best work.
"The most important thing for me is getting back for Wasps. I was captain last season, it is my favourite club in the world, and I am disappointed not to be there with the guys training.
"I have got two weeks with my foot up and then the rehab starts. Anyone will tell you who has been injured, it is way worse than any of the training, it is going to be quite flat-out.
"I will try to come back as fast as I can. The surgeon said four to six months, I will try to be pushing back for four.
"It is a long process but I am good at compartmentalising. I've been playing non-stop for 14 years, this is an opportunity to come back better and fitter."
Hear From the Man of the Series
After a successful 3-0 series win in Australia with England, James Haskell gives his view on the successful tour.
Australia – The Awards
With England flying home from Australia with a 3-0 series win to their name and the dust settling on an eventful three weeks of rugby, it's time for ESPN Scrum's end-of-tour awards.
Best Australia player:
Dane Haylett-Petty made great strides on his first appearances in the green and gold while Matt Toomua's performance in the third Test was superb. But two players stood above the rest: Israel Folau and Michael Hooper. Folau's ability to carve open defences with such subtleness is rivalled only by Ben Smith in world rugby while Hooper was a constant nuisance for England.
Hooper just edges Folau.
Best England player:
Any one of 15 could scoop this but Owen Farrell, James Haskell, Chris Robshaw, Dan Cole, Maro Itoje and the Vunipola brothers are just ahead of the rest. Farrell's kicking was remarkable while his performances in open play complemented his relentless accuracy off the tee. Robshaw was sensational in the second Test while Haskell is now indispensable in the openside role as showcased in the first two matches. Cole and Mako Vunipola have locked down both sides of the front-row while Itoje and Billy Vunipola continued to develop their unique skillsets. But on points importance alone,
Farrell just pips Haskell.
Jamie George's grubber for Farrell's series-clinching try in Melbourne was a wonderful piece of rugby initiative. His shin over the try line in the third Test was also impressive.
All three were pulsating Tests but the first Test just edges the other two for sheer ferociousness.
Best defensive stand:
England managed to hold out Australia for 20 phases at the end of the first half in Melbourne and it laid the foundations for their win. It was a remarkable effort.
Most unwelcome interference:
The 'Spider-Cam' which got in the way during the third Test.
Paul Gustard's decision to use 'The Guy in the Glass' as inspiration before the second Test was brilliant.
Eddie Jones' two calls in the first and third Test to haul players off before half time. In Brisbane it was Luther Burrell who got the hook after 29 minutes while Teimana Harrison had the same treatment after 31 in Sydney. Both were proven correct.
Haskell's hit on David Pocock inside the opening exchanges in Brisbane set England's stall out for the whole tour.
Haylett-Petty's against England in the third Test was a wonderful sweeping move and showed Australia at their best.
Though the pitch was terrible, the confines of Melbourne's AAMI Park delivered a remarkable, vibrant occasion.
Underestimating this England side. With Jones at the helm, they mean business.
Biggest Bodyline warrior:
Haskell. Tackled and ran himself into the ground.
Best ferry experience:
The ferry from Circular Quay to Manly is one of life's great experiences. The one to Watson's Bay isn't bad either.
Biggest foregone conclusion:
Dylan Hartley as British & Irish Lions captain for next June's tour of New Zealand.
Best media shindig:
The gathering put on by the Australian media in Sydney's Cricket Ground was a superb affair.
Team of the Month
The rugby365 team sat down, analysed the entire month's matches and came up the most consistent performers.
It should not be a major surprise that the top two teams in the world, New Zealand and England, dominate our famous selection.
The All Blacks provide the largest number of players for our starting XV - seven. England provide four players for our first-choice selection, while Ireland (two), South Africa and Australia (one each) make up the numbers.
There is further reward for the English in our back-up squad, with six English players bubbling under.
New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland (with two each), along with Wales and Australia (one each) provide the rest of our back-up squad.
Team of the Month:
15 - Israel Dagg (New Zealand)
Removed any doubt about his ability to still function at Test level.
Bubbling under: Israel Folau (Australia)
14 - Ben Smith (New Zealand)
Ruan Combrinck grabbed his chances and with more opportunities will surely challenge Smith for our right wing jersey.
Bubbling under: Ruan Combrinck (South Africa)
13 - Luke Marshall (Ireland)
And there were those profits of doom that suggested the void left by the departure of Brian O'Driscoll would not be filled. Maybe not the finished product, but certainly an exciting prospect.
Bubbling under: Jonathan Joseph (England)
12 - Owen Farrell (England)
He offers so much more than just an additional playmaker. His goal-kicking is also invaluable to the team.
Bubbling under: Ryan Crotty (New Zealand)
11 - Waisake Naholo (New Zealand)
When fit and in full flight he as an awesome sight to behold.
Bubbling under: Jack Nowell (England)
10 - Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
He didn't start out as first choice, but has certainly moved to the top of the New Zealand totem pole.
Bubbling under: Paddy Jackson (Ireland)
9 - Francois de Klerk (South Africa)
There are still those questioning his kicking game - and it is an issue - but there is no doubting the rest of his game, especially his energy and ability to rectify errors.
Bubbling under: Ben Youngs (England)
8 - Kieran Read (New Zealand)
Little doubt he is now the world's premier No.8.
Bubbling under: Billy Vunipola (England)
7 - James Haskell (England)
Clearly benefitting from the Eddie Jones way - playing some of his best rugby in years.
Bubbling under: Sam Warburton (Wales)
6 - Scott Fardy (Australia) One of the few Wallabies who consistently matched the English for desire and skill
Bubbling under: Chris Robshaw (England)
5 - Devin Toner (Ireland)
Showed, throughout the series, that he is so much more than just a line-out specialist
Bubbling under: Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa)
4 - Brodie Retallick (New Zealand)
Another All Black who is a step or two ahead of his peers in his position.
Bubbling under: Maro Itoje (England)
3 - Dan Cole (England)
The cornerstone of his team's scrum in a series whitewash.
Bubbling under: Owen Franks (New Zealand)
2 - Dane Coles (New Zealand)
Pace and skill in abundance, with the drive that makes All Blacks the best.
Bubbling under: Rory Best (Ireland)
1 - Mako Vunipola (England)
One of the powerhouses in an England pack the laid the foundation for the series whitewash.
Bubbling under: Jack McGrath (Ireland)
Haskell wins International Respect in Australia
Haskell wins international respect following his amazing efforts in Australia
Rugby World Cup winner Josh Lewsey thinks former England Captain Chris Robshaw and James Haskell surprised everybody with their play in England's series win in Australia.
Hear what he has to say
Hask Cam in Camp
England’s star back row man James Haskell takes the controls of the player cam for O2 Inside Line.
Watch HERE as he takes you behind the scenes, reveals a few surprising nicknames and catches up with Billy Vunipola on his fitness routine.