- Captain Haskell outlines value of Wade and Launchbury
- “Wade is one of the best finishers in world rugby” – Haskell
James Haskell is intent on returning the glory days to Wasps and believes “world class” young England duo Christian Wade and Joe Launchbury can provide the spark and steel they require to start that journey this season.
The new Wasps captain, adding appropriate passion to his familiar sharp wit after being elevated to lead a side he first represented back in 2003, started by discussing the potency of flying wing Wade.
The 23 year-old, who raced to 18 tries in 26 Wasps appearances in 2012/13 en route to a unique players’ player and young player double at that year’s RPA awards, missed the majority of last season with a serious foot ligament rupture.
Haskell believes Wade has “got his swagger back” and reproducing his sparkling form of 2013 – which reached a crescendo with an impressive Test debut in Argentina and a Lions call-up – can carry him back into England reckoning. Recounting when Wade skinned James Simpson-Daniel in a mere yard of space against Gloucester at the start of last term, Haskell said: “He’s one of the best finishers in world rugby.
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“He’s so dangerous, guys are looking out for him but there’s not a lot you can do, as James Simpson-Daniel found out. Simpson-Daniel is one of the best players I’ve played with, so talented, but if you give him a metre of space, Wadey will take it.
“The England coaches have a certain criteria for him of what they expect in a very competitive environment. I think he just needs to focus on Wasps and focus on one game at a time. Look after his foot, manage himself, manage his expectations and if you do that, everything else will take care of itself and before you know it you’ll be back involved with England.”
Wasps start the season against last season’s runners-up Saracens at Twickenham Stadium at 2pm in the London Double Header on Saturday, followed by London Irish against Harlequins at 4:30pm.
With six rounds of Aviva Premiership action and two European Rugby Champions Cup games – garnered after a fabulous aggregate win over Stade Francais in the play-off – Haskell was keen to emphasise that England ambitions this autumn can only be realised with stellar club form.
That maxim applies to him too, after saying he emerged from the summer tour to New Zealand with a “big smile on his face”.
“I really enjoyed it from the moment I got in the plane until I left; I just loved putting that white shirt on again,” said the 29 year-old back row.
“My special moment was telling the players what it meant to play for England because I had played 50 times but no one had ever asked me that and it was interesting for people to know how I feel about it.
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“The coaches know exactly what they’re looking for and I know exactly what they expect from me. Without being clichéd, the England stuff is an important consideration but at the end of the day, what got me there was simple targets – chipping away at Wasps, playing well, making sure Dai is happy. Then you find yourself in the England squad. You don’t target England, it comes and finds you when you’re ready. “
England certainly found Launchbury when he was ready; the 23 year-old has started the last 20 Test matches for the national side. The giant lock has been a key man for Stuart Lancaster during that period, displaying ice-cool decision-making and relentless work rate on a number of occasions.
Haskell has earmarked Launchbury for a leadership role in his Wasps side despite his tender years and said the former age-grade star will only get better and better, learning how to maximise his raw ability and lift himself week in, week out.
“Joe Launchbury has to be a key man for Wasps this season, he’s one of the characters to lead from the front,” added the 51-Test man. “He’s naturally quite a quiet guy but he’s got masses of experience. He’s a very, very talented player and the boys listen to him because of the way he performs.
“When you’re a young player and you’re coming through and finding your feet, little things can unsettle you. But after a while you’ve seen it and heard it.
“It’s about being consistent every time, the intensity is always there and it’s about doing everything possible in the week to make sure you’re calm and collected to switch into game mode.”
Tickets for the London Double Header at Twickenham Stadium this Saturday are available via RFU.com.