It is fair to say that James Haskell is a character that polarises opinion however those that are familiar with the individual will know that his dedication to professional rugby is the most important thing in his life. The viewpoints of others that maybe contrary to this do not concern the 30 year-old because those around him know the truth.
With 160 appearances for Wasps, 62 caps for England and having played rugby in England, France and Japan the man is well travelled and with that CV comes a wealth of experience that he is now channeling into captaining the club that he has supported since his school days at Wellington College, Wasps.
Today’s new contract announcement is important one for both James and Wasps. For Wasps, they continue to have the services of an individual that never gives anything less than 150% on the field and a man that is growing into the captaincy with every match played. For James, it signals his burning ambition to take the club back to the glory days that he experienced in his first stint there; when Wasps won Premiership and Heineken Cup titles galore and lead the way for others to follow.
“I am delighted and over the moon to be extending my contract with Wasps. It is the only Premiership club I have ever known and feels like home, even after my stint around the world. I supported Wasps as an avid fan from the age of 13, so to be able to extend my stay, and lead the boys out as captain, is a dream come true. Obviously it wasn’t a decision I took lightly as being 30 it was really important I chose a team that I felt were going to compete and ultimately win silverware. I am motivated personally by always trying to improve and have a burning desire to win more silverware.”
Not only does it point to his club ambitions however with his decision to stay in the Aviva Premiership James has made it very clear he has an England jersey firmly in his mind;
“It was also important that I stayed in the UK to continue my quest to play for England again. Pulling on that white shirt is why I get up every day and I feel I still have more to give at that level.”
This message will be heard by Eddie Jones loudly and clearly and it is exactly what the RFU wants to see happen. If players believe that they can be part of England going forwards and want to wear that white jersey then they will remain in the Aviva Premiership and strengthen the English game as a whole.
While Wasps’ form has been mixed in the opening rounds of this season, they’ve gone from taking Europe by storm to recently missing out on the domestic results, the constant has been the power and impact of their back row at which James is at the heart. When George Smith was signed it was the prospect of the trio of Haskell, Smith and Hughes that got all of our pulses racing and they haven’t disappointed. On, and indeed off the field, Wasps’ co-captain doesn’t do anything by half-measures and he leads the side in terms of work rate. George Smith is the master of the breakdown and Nathan Hughes carries constantly with the greatest of purpose and ball plays like a back. The trio and the balance that they gain is one that back rows across the country, and indeed Europe, try and achieve and will only get stronger the more that they develop and play together.
This weekend Wasps will be hosting the Worcester Warriors in the Aviva Premiership before two huge European clashes against RC Toulon and Leinster Rugby and you can guarantee that James Haskell will be leading the charge for his side. With every performance in black and gold the 30-year old will be aspiring to gain the results required to gain club silverware and deliver the performances to warrant inclusion in Eddie Jones’ England and gain that coveted white jersey.
By Emma Thurston
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