x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Haskell should get rugby's own frequent flanker miles

The England player is traveling around the world, one try at a time, picking up rugby with one league in one country after another league in another country has ended its season.

The world tour of Haskell, second from right, saw him collect the ball for Stade Francais during the Amlin Challenge Cup Final match earlier this year.
The world tour of Haskell, second from right, saw him collect the ball for Stade Francais during the Amlin Challenge Cup Final match earlier this year.

James Haskell has always had too much energy for his own good.

When he first emerged on the international scene, via the familiar stepping stone of the Dubai Rugby Sevens, he was too fast even for his own backline.

As a forward, his job was to get to the breakdown and set up the play, but most of the time his backs were left trailing behind as he went charging off, looking for tries by himself.

"We couldn't keep up with him," David Strettle, his speedy England teammate, who graduated from the same sevens side, said.

Haskell is clearly a man in a hurry. Once this year's World Cup concludes, he will cut straight to a sojourn in Japan, which is usually the preserve of semi-retired star players cashing in with one last payday, where he has signed up to play club rugby in the lucrative domestic league.

The England flanker will not hang around there for too long, however. After just three months he hopes to be playing in the Super 15. And not just for any old franchise — Haskell says he will either be joining the Reds in Queensland, to play for Ewen McKenzie, his former Stade Francais coach, or Canterbury's Crusaders.

So, just the two best teams in it, then.

"I want to go to a competitive side that can win the title," Haskell said when announcing his intentions in an interview with the UK's Sunday Times. "I'm not motivated by just turning up."

Merely turning up and getting a game in his two chosen sides would be no mean feat, though. At the Crusaders, for example, he will have to vie for a place in the back row with Richie McCaw and Kieran Read, two fantasy world XV certainties.

The globetrotting is all about one thing — playing as many games as he can for England. Haskell says he has run his travel plans by Martin Johnson, the England manager, and would not have agreed to it if he had not approved.

England have a summer tour to South Africa scheduled for next year, but Haskell will be surely crying out for a break by then.

His globetrotting will end back where he started, with his first club, London Wasps, in time for the start of the 20012/13 Premiership season.

It is true that a sporting life is usually a short one. The hyperactive Haskell, who is leaving a spell in France to undertake his world tour, obviously wants to fit in all the experiences he can in the shortest time possible.

The next time an international sportsman contemplates complaining about fatigue, perhaps they should try Haskell's treadmill for size.

 

pradley@thenational.ae