Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Haskell: We'll Find Our Mean Streak

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Haskell: We'll Find Our Mean Streak

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones Rugby Correspondent

JAMES HASKELL today issued a "don't panic" message after England's renowned defence was torn apart in the final quarter by Wales and forced to hang on for a 23-19 victory at Twickenham.

The sight of wing Mark Cueto frantically calling for help as he faced four attackers with Shane Williams darting in for a try, will make uncomfortable viewing for the entire squad when defence coach Mike Ford holds his debrief before the players face Wales again on Saturday.

The Cardiff Test will be the last warmup match before team manager Martin Johnson reveals his 30-man World Cup squad on August 22 and Haskell's try-A scoring performance has made him a genuine threat to Nick Easter for the No8 jersey. Haskell's ability to perform at open-side flanker is also critical given the knee injury suffered by captain Lewis Moody, who was undergoing a scan today to ensure the problem is not serious.

The rejuvenated pair of full-back Delon Armitage and prop Matt Stevens made superb try-saving tackles on Saturday but, overall, England tired in the last 20 minutes with Wales fighting back from 20-7 down.

Haskell, who was exposed by the pace of Wales flanker Sam Warburton late on, insists there were mitigating circumstances.

"We pride ourselves in our defence and don't need to panic," he said. "We went from two 20-minute contact sessions as a squad into a full-blooded international against Wales.

"I'm in pieces and feel as if I played in a Six Nations Test in the middle of the season. What happened to our defence was a really good lesson because guys were tired after working so hard in training all week and people were blowing in the warm-up. But, there is a bigger picture that we are all aware of although three and four on one overlaps for the Welsh is not acceptable. …

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