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Haskell knows he has a role to play in helping England pass their Welsh test

Published 21/09/2015

James Haskell is taking on the identity of England's opponents to assist the team's preparations
James Haskell is taking on the identity of England's opponents to assist the team's preparations

James Haskell will switch his identity in training from Fijian to that of a Welshman to help prepare England for Saturday's critical World Cup showdown at Twickenham.

Haskell was among the eight players omitted from the matchday 23 that toppled the Islanders with a bonus-point victory and spent the build-up to the opening night of the tournament trying to emulate the style of play awaiting the hosts.

The 30-year-old back row is resigned to being overlooked again for the visit of Wales - the side is named on Thursday - but will happily adapt to the role of one of Warren Gatland's power runners to ready his team-mates for the pivotal Pool A clash.

"So far in this camp I've been Ireland, France and Fiji. We haven't got as far as coloured bibs yet, but we're not far off," Haskell said.

"Every week there is a role to play - but I won't be putting on my (Wales captain) Sam Warburton mask!"

"Wales are a world-class side who are very physical and they will relish the opportunity to come to Twickenham.

"There's talk about their injuries but Warren thrives on that backs-to-the-wall situation.

"His team is outstanding and throughout there are players who can cause trouble, so the guys who are defending for us this week have to be direct and have to be physical. They have to match the power and physicality that the Welsh have.

A split emerged at the last World Cup between those in England's squad who were playing and a minority on the fringes whose only hope of being involved hinged on when injury struck.

Haskell has revealed that steps have been taken to ensure a similar scenario does not unfold at England 2015.

"It's difficult for me to comment about 2011 because I was playing a lot, so I did not have that experience. Now for the first two games I've been with the shoe on the other foot," he said.

"I've made sure - and the coaches have too - that there is no separation between those boys.

"We've got a really good set of guys here who are all waiting to take that opportunity, but are very positive when they don't get the call.

"When we came together we talked about the importance of the 31 and the boys all being in it together, even the guys that missed out.

"Luckily within the group I'm the leader of my club and Danny Care has obviously just been made captain of Harlequins.

"It comes naturally to me because you don't ever want to be that player that when everyone is going one way, you're pulling the other.

"The beauty of rugby is that we have that self-management - unlike other sports where characters become individualised - and if you don't go with the core you stand out like a sore thumb.

"If someone you see naturally being disappointed, the boys are pretty swift to put an arm round and bring him back into the mix."

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