Haskell taking lessons from Smith

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

England flanker James Haskell has been rejuvenated under Eddie Jones, but the influence of Wallabies veteran George Smith has been just as telling.

Haskell has been playing with Smith at Wasps in the UK Premiership for the past season and took advantage of the opportunity to pick the brains of the Australian flanker.

“He showed me that all-round game that you need as a player,” he said.

“He worked with me and took the time to help me. I badgered the poor bloke, I think most of the time he was trying to run away but I managed to convince him to stay a little bit and he helped me out.

“I just loved the way he moved, how smooth he moved.

“You can’t make someone a good player but I can learn and if you’re willing to learn you do pick bits up. He’s been really good for me.”

George Smith and James Haskell made a strong pairing in the Premiership this season. Photo: Getty ImagesSmith spent some time in the England camp ahead of their tour, but Haskell said there weren’t any state secrets being passed on from the former Wallaby about their new opponents.

Saturday’s man-of-the-match performance was the culmination of Haskell’s incredible transformation since the Rugby World Cup, a tournament in which he started just one match.

He can’t put his finger on a specific reason for his rejuvenation, or anything particularly that he’d changed about his game.

“I’m never going to be a David Pocock over the ball. I try my best at times and I think the balance of the backrow’s more important,” he said.

“I’ve done my work with George Smith and watched a lot of players.

“Some of the guys I grew up watching and I always go back and refer to is Richie McCaw, David Pocock, guys like that I look up to.

“They’re people I learn from so I think naturally you change your game a little bit.”

James Haskell is relishing his time playing for England. Photo: Getty ImagesHaskell said he wasn’t getting ahead of himself after England got the ascendency in the opening Test, still rating the Australian back row as the one to chase.

“Their back row was very, very good tonight we just got the better of it at times,” he said.

“They are still the best backrow in the world, in my opinion.”