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Haskell seeking big finish

James Haskell admits the conflicting memories of England's last RBS 6 Nations title triumph is fuelling his desire to seize the crown in front of a euphoric Twickenham.

England, Wales and Ireland will be jostling for glory on a nerve-jangling climax to a Championship that will almost certainly be decided by points difference for a third successive season.

Haskell was present four years ago when the Red Rose were confirmed masters of northern hemisphere rugby despite succumbing 24-8 in Dublin on the final day.

The trophy was presented to the squad at a hotel near Lansdowne Road, yet the celebrations were muted by the disappointment at having missed out on the Grand Slam in such emphatic fashion.

"It was difficult losing to Ireland two weeks ago because I genuinely thought we could win the Grand Slam this year. That is such a miracle thing to do," Haskell said.

"To win the Six Nations is almost a second prize, but it's still amazing because it's such a rare thing. You can go your whole career without winning one.

"We obviously won one when we lost to Ireland in 2011. It was weird because we lost very heavily, lost the Grand Slam but then got awarded the trophy. That was difficult.

"It would be great to play well at Twickenham against France, get the win and enjoy that celebration to lay down a marker for the future."

England propelled themselves back into title contention with a 25-13 victory over Scotland, although their plus four points advantage over Ireland heading into the final round is a poor return given the number of try-scoring chances they created on Saturday.

Much will depend on France's levels of motivation when they arrive for the 5pm kick-off at Twickenham with the 2015 Championship proving them to be as maddeningly inconsistent as ever.

"You never know which French team will turn up. On their day they can beat anyone," Haskell said.

"They truly are an unbelievable rugby nation if they get it right. They will target this as a massive opportunity. Physically, they have a very big pack.

"We know how dangerous France can be as well. They've had a pretty frustrating Six Nations and they are going to look to try and come here and spoil it."

A long Championship will draw to a close after twisting and turning its path to one decisive Saturday and Haskell insists England will empty the tank in their pursuit of a first title under Stuart Lancaster.

"There's no such thing as 'at the end of a gruelling camp'. That's irrelevant," the Wasps captain and flanker said.

"You're playing at Twickenham where the support's amazing. You're playing for a potential Championship and you're going into a World Cup, so this is one of the last times you'll have an opportunity to put your hand up.

"If you're not prepared for that, if you're not ready, you're in the wrong game. I think everyone will have that energy to really push it out. We pride ourselves on that.

"Whoever is in the mix will do themselves justice, run themselves into the ground until the next man comes along."


From Belfast Telegraph