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I wasn't Grand at all, says Haskell

France 21 - England31

By Duncan Bech

James Haskell refused to contemplate withdrawing from England's Grand Slam match even when a debilitating back spasm left him in "hell".

Haskell was among the stand-out performers in a 31-21 victory over France in Paris that saw the new RBS Six Nations champions complete their first clean sweep for 13 years.

And a night's work notable for the veteran Wasps flanker's relentless carrying and bruising tackle count was produced despite incurring a back problem during an innocuous moment in training on Thursday.

Head coach Eddie Jones saluted Haskell for putting his body on the line, adding that his last five matches have been his best for England, and had made it clear when his fitness hung in the balance that he was needed.

The 66-cap international said: "I was in hell. My back spasmed after one play. There was no rhyme or reason why it happened - I probably just tried to accelerate out of second gear when I should have known better.

"I thought I was done but the medical team were amazing and got me through it. I must have seen them about 20 times.

"I've got an amazing physio in London as well - my old mate Kevin Lidlow - who saw me at about 10.30pm at night and fixed me up. I did a lot of rehab and the adrenaline got me through.

"I was suffering from a bit of a cold as well, but no-one was going to keep me off that field. After two minutes, my face almost fell apart.

"I was always going to turn out. Eddie walked past me on Thursday and said 'mate, we need you, you are playing'. I was like 'all right boss'.

"There was a moment where I was pretty dark, more on Thursday and Friday where I was a bit concerned, but Eddie just kept coming up to me and saying 'we need you, are you going to play, are you going to play?'.

"I spent a lot of time in hot baths with wheat packs on and I managed to get through it. I was never not going to play."

Haskell was part of the England starting XV who were denied the Grand Slam at the final hurdle by Ireland five years ago.

"That was a very odd scenario in 2011. We are all proud people and to be given something when you've lost that last game was very difficult," Haskell said. "This is a whole different kettle of fish. We've been written off by a lot of people. There are different journeys in this team and I think that's why we gel.

"There are people near the end of their career, guys who've had one chance at it and won a Grand Slam, people who've been written off and other people who are talked up.

"It's great to come together and deliver. It wasn't the best performance against France, but we won a Grand Slam and no-one can take that away from us.

"As a professional sportsman you never take a moment to appreciate your achievements until you finish because you are always onto your next job.

"I've got a week off so I'm going to enjoy this because it is such a difficult thing to achieve."

Belfast Telegraph

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