Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Haskell says time away has improved him

James Haskell feels he has improved as a player after a spell away

James Haskell believes he is now a better player as he bids to resurrect his England career.

The experienced back-rower is back in the England fold after effectively ruling himself out of the RBS 6 Nations earlier this year by opting to play club rugby in Japan and New Zealand. is decision to rejoin London Wasps next season paved the way for a comeback and new head coach Stuart Lancaster called him up for this month's tour of South Africa.

The 27-year-old was not considered for Saturday's first Test loss to the Springboks as Lancaster makes him wait for a 43rd cap but Haskell expects to be more than ready when the chance comes, and he said: "Once you reach a certain age as a player and have been around for a while the differences are only in small percentages."

He added: "I am not going to suddenly able to start doing things I couldn't before. You either have an ability you work up to or you can't.

"What I think my little differences are are in consistency, game understanding, decision-making - some of the stuff that is not so tangible to put your finger on.

"I am not going to become a playmaker, that is not my thing but those little abilities, knowing when to pass, seeing those guys on you - that kind of stuff - I feel has improved."

Haskell has not played for England since the World Cup last autumn and the team has changed radically since that disastrous campaign following the arrival of Lancaster.

The former Leeds boss has introduced many fresh faces and it was felt in some quarters Haskell might not fit in given his connection to the old regime.

But he said: "I have always said the reason I play rugby is to play for my country. As a player, you want to play for that shirt. That was never in doubt in my mind and being part of what is a new, exciting set-up is always a big thing.

"When Stuart invited me into the squad it was very much about rebuilding the squad together. They are on a new path. If it meant coming in and working the way Stuart wanted to work that was very exciting for me. It means a lot to me."

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