Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Haskell Is Now Taking the Spotlight for Right Reasons

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Haskell Is Now Taking the Spotlight for Right Reasons

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones

JAMES HASKELL is finally convincing the doubters -- including Martin Johnson -- that he can become a major weapon in England's armoury. Johnson is Leicester through and through and his provincial roots mean he has very little in common with the city slickers at London Wasps, who have produced players such as the headline-grabbing Lawrence Dallaglio and Danny Cipriani, who became a face on the celebrity circuit.

Wellington-educated Haskell seemed to easily fit into the Wasps identikit that Johnson had of players from that club and with Cipriani unable to handle the pressure and demands of being an England player, it appeared the strongly-built flanker was going the same way.

Haskell's decision two years ago to swap the bright lights of London for the chic of Paris and a lucrative contract with Stade Francais appeared to confirm here was a player more suited to the garish pink of France's most highprofile side than the white of England. However, Haskell has proved everyone wrong in this Six Nations, filling the void at No7 created by injury to captain Lewis Moody and putting together a series of performances that culminated in a man of the match showing in last Sunday's 22-16 win over Scotland.

Johnson was also impressed and said: "I've told James there is no point being that strong guy unless you play like it and he is performing well after a period of being in and out while I have been in charge. He is a force -- a big, strong athlete -- but don't tell him I said that!" While Haskell has started to win over former critics, he has not compromised his persona which means he embraces Twitter and YouTube, gaining the kind of publicity the England team manager would rather avoid. Haskell is a restless character by nature and also a stickler for tidiness. In fact, he was far from impressed when a month in the team's Bagshot hotel was interrupted to give the players a change of scene by moving to Oxford for a week.

"I had only just got all my clothes into the right drawers," lamented Haskell, who shared a flat in the centre of Paris with Ollie Phillips, the England Sevens regular, another of Stade's Red Rose imports. …

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