Why Wasps' James Haskell can relate to David Haye's toe-curlingly painful injury
The link between Wasps and England flanker James Haskell and two-time world boxing champion David Haye is not immediately obvious.
One is a vegan, who holds North Cyprus citizenship and has the middle name Deron, while the other is a keen DJ whose parents opted for Andrew and Welbon and is nearly related to Richard and Judy.
If you are feet rather than miles away from the correct answer, you are getting very close, since the unlikely connection between two of England's biggest sportsmen is found in their tootsies.
Haye received plenty of derision in 2011 when he cited a broken toe as the cause of his defeat by Wladmir Klitschko, while the reaction Haskell has received to his damaged left big toe has been a lot more sympathetic.
"People laugh about me having a toe injury, and I know David Haye gave it a bad rap when he had one," Haskell says. "The first thing I did when I got it was speak to him about how painful it is and how you can't do anything. "You need your toe to be able to do most things, and when it's injured it's hell to push off or even rotate and run, so I have a new-found sympathy for him."
Haskell's toe finally gave way during the second test of England's historic series win in Australia. The injury had been developing for a while and the squeamish should look away now. "It was something I'd done a while ago and kept playing which made it worse," he says. "I played five or six games with anaesthetic in my foot, until the bone and tendons got so far apart they eventually went totally and that was it. "
They had to reattach tendons, rebuild the toe joint and move something called the plantar plate, so it's not a nice operation."
Haskell's rehabilitation has been a slow, painful process, which he likens to an elongated pre-season, but also accepts has brought him longerterm benefits. "It will be ready when it's ready," he says, "there's nothing that will make it any quicker. I'm currently doing four sessions a day, so it's like preseason hell that's gone on for five months.
"They have you for so long that you don't do conditioning to start with, but then you get into it as well as pool sessions, stair running, pushing stuff, carrying stuff and you remember why being injured is the worse part of being a rugby player. "
I had four months off with my knee, but some of that was in pre-season, so this has been my longest absence. It's not ideal, because I obviously want to play, but in the long-run not getting beaten up for a few weeks, and having a break after 14 years is probably a good thing."
England's player-of-the-series Down Under last summer is not a good rugby spectator, although he says he enjoyed working for Sky Sports at Twickenham in recent weeks. "I don't watch a lot of rugby apart from clips of people I want to learn from and those I enjoy watching," he says.
"I've seen most of the home games, as we're always all at the Ricoh, but haven't gone to many of the away games.
I'll sit down and do analysis with Jack Willis, or sometimes Thomas Young and I will go over stuff and talk about aspects of the game, but driving to sit in a stadium and watch is rare for me."
Dai Young has previously suggested Haskell and Kurtley Beale are likely to return at similar points during December, and his former skipper suggests Wasps' Aussie star will just beat him to the punch. "Kurtley is slightly ahead of me," he says.
"Every week we do something new, and the toe is slow to get used to it. "I ran quite a bit today and had some discomfort, but it's coming along well and I'm on track. "With England games being on, and Wasps playing in Europe, lots of people ask about targets, but with the way my injury has been I've just had to think about ticking off small things. "It's literally become a case of ticking off milestones.
To start with I couldn't run, and couldn't lunge and now I can. Each of those steps has been a milestone. "What I'm now most excited about is getting through a normal rugby session with the other boys, which if things go to plan is maybe two or three weeks away."
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