Man on a mission
James Haskell told skysports.com he is determined to win back his place in the England side.
By Alex Williams
Last Updated: 01/11/10 10:10am
James Haskell does not intend to play "second fiddle" for much longer as he tries to secure a regular place in the England side for November's Investec Internationals.
The Stade Francais flanker was a fixture in the starting XV for the first five games of this year's Six Nations, only dropping to the bench for the final contest of the campaign against France.
However, the summer tour of Australia saw Haskell reduced to a back-up role as Tom Croft, whose emergence in 2009 initially cost Haskell his spot at flanker, returned from a knee injury.
Indeed the 25-year-old did not manage to get onto the field at all during England's 21-20 victory over the Wallabies in the second Test, the first time they had beaten Australia on their own soil since the 2003 World Cup.
Many expect Croft to continue at blindside flanker for the autumn internationals with captain Lewis Moody wearing the seven shirt, but Haskell has been keen to catch the eye of team manager Martin Johnson in the squad's initial training sessions.
"I'm always motivated. I was disappointed not to get as much game time as I wanted in Australia. I was second fiddle, which I don't enjoy being," he told skysports.com.
"It's all about competition and I think these training sessions shouldn't be counter-productive by just focusing on your opposite number but you've got to always be competitive.
"You've got to push them because the harder you push them, they either crumble and you get the shirt or they get better.
"That's what we all want to do, that's why there has to be a competitive atmosphere in the squad - it pushes the other player on to be the best he can be.
"I always want to prove myself with regards to the six, seven or eight shirt. Competitiveness across the board, from whoever it might be, is very helpful."
The autumn campaign opens with a daunting clash against New Zealand on Saturday, with the All Blacks regarded as the best side in the world after their total dominance of this year's Tri-Nations.
With clashes against Australia, South Africa and Samoa to follow, Haskell realises the size of the task facing England but insists that even the All Blacks have weaknesses that can be exploited.
"Playing these games is going to be the biggest challenge we've had. Playing the best teams in the world and we start with New Zealand, there's no harder opposition," he said.
"But coming to camp we had a massive session, full on and one of the most physical sessions I've ever had with England and I think that's a great indication that we're ready to get into the Tests."
He added of New Zealand: "If you look at the opposition and can't find weaknesses and you stand back and go, 'Oh they're not susceptible anywhere', then you've lost the game before you've started.
"I think (an) important thing is that we don't play into their hands but most importantly impose our gameplan and our physicality on them.
"Playing Tri-Nations is one thing but the first encounter with a northern hemisphere side is a little bit different and we want to make sure that we impose that."
The win over Australia in June has undoubtedly given the camp a confidence boost, but Haskell has warned that dwelling too much on that result could lead to complacency.
"I think it's a double-edged sword. We don't want to dwell too much on what happened on the tour because that has no relevance to what's happening in the autumn," the former Wasps man said.
"In the tour we didn't start as quickly as we should have done against the Australians but we came up (with) success so we've got to make sure we use that to hit the ground running against New Zealand.
"We need to leave no stone unturned in the preparation and start properly."