‘I’ve been looking over my shoulder since day one’: James Haskell hoping to book place in Australia

He may have experienced one of the most memorable season’s to-date of his rugby career but Wasps skipper James Haskell revealed he is still looking over his shoulder as the race to book a ticket to Australia this summer hots up. 

England travel Down Under in June where they will play Australia in three test matches and Haskell, who was a key member of Eddie Jones’ Grand Slam winning side in March’s Six Nations, is desperate to be involved.

Earlier this month newly-appointed England boss, Jones, described the form and attitude of four or five of his Grand Slam winning side as below-par and threatened to axe established names for the tour to Australia.

The accusation was certainly not pointed in Haskell’s direction but the Wasps flanker is determined to ensure he doesn’t fall into Jones’ bad-books in the remaining weeks of the season as he chases silverware with his club.

Wasps narrowly lost out to Saracens in their European Cup semi-final last weekend and this Sunday face Exeter Chiefs in a crucial Aviva Premiership top-of-the-table clash at Sandy Park that will go a long way to deciding who finishes in the top-two this season and earns a home semi-final draw come May.

“Eddie hasn’t said anything about the summer tour; it’s all on the down low presently and we all know it’s about performing for our club sides presently,” said Haskell, speaking at the unveiling of the new Wasps’ Community Defender, which will be performing an active role in the Coventry community to help the club reach its goal of engaging with 150,000 youngsters by 2020.

This will be delivered through many initiatives that include the long standing national grassroots rugby festival, the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup.

He said: “I’ve been looking over my shoulder since day one, since I was 21, that’s the nature of rugby. I don’t worry too much about other players, if I worry about myself not playing well that’s what’s important.

“If the coach wants to pick you he’ll pick you, if your face doesn’t fit any more then you’re out of the door.

“It was great to play seven the whole time in the Six Nations, but it was the balance of the back-row that was important.

“Any time to start for England is the dream for any player, and my desire to play for my country burns as brightly as it ever did.

“I’m just happy to be there and I’m making sure I perform. As soon as the name was being engraved on the trophy it was done and dusted, so now you’ve got to keep proving yourself and go again for a huge challenge in Australia if you make it that far.

“The Grand Slam was massive for us. The senior players talked amongst ourselves about how we wanted to be remembered and look back on our careers when they were to finish.

“We had England caps but had we won anything and done as much as we wanted to and the answer to that was no. To win a Grand Slam is a marker in the sand now, it’s something that no-one can take away from you. It’s such a hard thing to achieve and it was an incredible moment.”

After the disappointment of losing to Saracens in their first European semi-final for eight years attention now turns to Exeter this weekend as Wasps look to end their season on a high by lifting silverware.

A home semi-final in the end-of-season Aviva Premiership play-offs will likely prove crucial if Wasps are to reach Twickenham in May and Haskell has called on his side to deliver when it matters most at Sandy Park.

“Exeter is a massive one for us, Sandy Park is a very difficult place to go and play,” added Haskell. “We’ve obviously had some big encounters with them this season and the European quarter-final was the biggest, in which we managed to get a victory in the end.

“It was so close and either side could have won. Now we’re going down to their neck of the woods to try to put in a performance and cement our position.

“It’s a big ask but that’s the beauty of professional rugby. We were disappointed last week and we’ve got an opportunity to set that right this week.

“We haven’t thought ahead about who we’d prefer in the semis, I’m just trying to get through this weekend. It could be Exeter again but that doesn’t bother us, you’ve just got to deal with the threat that’s in front of you at that particular time and go from there.”

Land Rover is the main club partner of Wasps. The club recently unveiled its latest community vehicle, a bespoke Land Rover Defender which will help deliver the clubs work in the local community, engaging youngsters in rugby. Follow @LandRoverRugby

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