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Haskell: We must produce results

James Haskell insists Stuart Lancaster's cultural revolution will be rendered meaningless if England fail to produce the results that demonstrate they are a genuine force.

Lancaster has been praised for his realignment of the squad's ethos following the shambolic 2011 World Cup when a succession of off-field incidents left England's reputation in tatters.

Now three years into his reign as head coach, Lancaster's current challenge is to build a side capable of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in 10 months time.

Five successive defeats have forced England to deny they are at crisis point, but the mounting pressure has turned the remaining QBE Internationals against Samoa and Australia into must-win games.

Haskell stresses that each loss was inflicted by heavyweights New Zealand or South Africa, but accepts it is time for England to deliver.

"It's important for us to get results on the board. We don't feel like we're in crisis or there's tension, but ultimately what cements everything we're doing is results," Haskell said.

"No one will reflect back in a year's time and say 'Oh, that was a narrow victory'. They just want to see a 'W'. Nor will they say 'win or lose, they've got a really good culture'. Frankly it doesn't matter.

"My own view and the view of the boys is that finishing an honourable second is not acceptable, but let's get some context here - they have been against the world champions and the second-best team in the world.

"No-one wants to talk about a 'development journey', but we are a side that has come together pretty quickly.

"We have pushed some very good sides, but we are aware that we need to take that step and take those opportunities."

Haskell is set to win his 51st cap against Samoa at Twickenham on Saturday as a replacement for Tom Wood in a new-look back row that should also feature Ben Morgan alongside captain Chris Robshaw.

Haskell was superb against New Zealand at Eden Park in the first Test of the summer tour, but was dropped for the second and third games of the 3-0 series defeat.

Lancaster reverted to his preferred trio of Wood, Robshaw and Billy Vunipola for the opening two games of the autumn, but the unit has under-performed so Haskell has his chance.

"When I came back I reflected on that tour to New Zealand, the first Test against the All Blacks and the game against Crusaders. I had done everything I could do," Haskell said.

"Now this is a huge, huge opportunity. Stuart has never led any of us to believe that this is a half-term change of personnel to test a few things out and that they're going to revert back to the team they had before.

"These are the guys he feels are going to do a job. Then it's open season for that game against Australia. I want to seize the opportunity as best I can. I'm not a good watcher of rugby and I won't leave anything in the tank.

"My mindset is to smile, revel in every moment and leave nothing in the tank."

Samoa are probably the most physical opponents England could be facing outside the southern hemisphere giants and Haskell has braced his team-mates for a ferocious collision.

"I've always been very envious of the Samoans with their natural ability, talent and power," Haskell said.

"They seem to be born with all the attributes of what you need as a rugby player that the rest of us spend all of our careers working for. They are incredible athletes.

"They have their way and I've seen people get smoked by them. When they click they're going to take someone down. We'll have to fight fire with fire."

Out of form fly-half Owen Farrell is set to retain his place in the starting XV, although he will be moved to inside centre with George Ford taking the number 10 jersey.

England's refusal to drop Farrell is sure to attract criticism when the team is announced on Wednesday afternoon, but the 23-year-old has the full backing of his captain Chris Robshaw.

"Owen is a fantastic player and I'm a very firm believer that any team with him is much better than a team that doesn't have him," Robshaw said.

"Owen is a key pivot in the team. He's been fantastic and leads the lads extremely well. He's a great guy to have alongside you in the ranks. You need people like that in these tough environments."


From Belfast Telegraph