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Six Nations: Haskell not worried by hostility

James Haskell has dismissed taunts from the Ireland camp that the rest of the rugby world will be behind their bid to ruin England's Grand Slam party on Saturday.

England-baiting has been a theme of the tournament, with Wales coach Warren Gatland aiming criticism at Dylan Hartley while France boss Marc Lievremont claimed: “We all don't like the English.”

Ireland wing Tommy Bowe stirred the pot yesterday by declaring “all the different countries will be backing us” to stop England from winning their first Grand Slam since back in 2003.

Wales are the only side that can mathematically deny England the title and they will certainly be rooting for an Ireland victory at the Aviva Stadium.

But England have not been rattled yet — Hartley produced one of finest performances against Wales — and Haskell insisted Ireland's attempt at a war of words will also fail.

The Stade Francais flanker, one of 12 nominations for player of the tournament, believes England's will to succeed is too strong to be upset by outside influences.

“Does all the pomp and circumstance of a week like this affect us while we are in camp? No it doesn't,” Haskell said.

“Unless they firebomb the bus or come storming the hotel with placards it is an irrelevance for us.

“We have a lot of guys who have been there before, who have tasted that hostile environment. We have a lot of guys who have played in club finals, in tough occasions. That filters down through the squad.

“Martin Johnson will steer us through this week so all our energy is focused on the opposition. There will be nerves and fear but there will be excitement as well.”

It would be their first title since 2003 but Haskell admits it would be a hollow triumph on its own. What drives the squad on is the chance to join an esteemed list of Grand Slam winners.

“This is a grand final against Ireland at the new Lansdowne Road.

“That is all the motivation you will ever need to have,” Haskell said.

Belfast Telegraph


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