James Haskell - Exclusive Interview
By Stade Francais’s standards this has been a disappointing season. Hit by a host of serious injuries and a couple of lengthy bans, the Parisian side failed to finish in the top four of the Top 14 for the first time in eight years.
The club sacked manager Ewen McKenzie after a below-par start and also suffered serious injuries to the likes of Brian Liebenberg, Sergio Parisse, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Djibril Camara plus bans to David Attoub and Julien Dupuy.
The disruption during the Six Nations clearly didn’t help but England flanker James Haskell is making no excuses following his first season in Paris.
The Sport Review caught up with the 25-year-old to reflect on his time in France since his move from Wasps last year.
Stade Francais have lost a head coach, suffered bans and serious injuries. How much do you think this has affected the season?
Obviously they’re all contributing factors to a season not going well, but I’m never one to make excuses. It’s disappointing because we have the players and the ability.
What have you learnt about the French style of rugby whilst playing in the Top 14 and how is it different to the Guinness Premiership?
I think probably on the whole the Guinness Premiership is a more physical game. I think you’re free to play with the ball [in France] a bit more and the emphasis is a lot more on beating players and trying to offload as opposed to following a pattern. You’re focusing on beating a man one-to-one and keeping the ball alive.
Some things that would compliment their ability to play with the ball is having some more structure and getting that fine balance. The French team that won the Grand Slam had that.
England came closest to beating France in the Six Nations but would you agree that they are lacking the creativity to match the likes of France and New Zealand?
The talent we have in this England side -whether I’m in it or not -is great. We have a fantastic team and with the right coaches to take things forward and get things right I think it’s just down to the players on the field to perform and play with confidence.
At the moment there’s a downer on England and a lot of people are looking for people to make mistakes which, however tough you are and however much you batten down the hatches, can always creep in.
I think that emphasis on keeping the ball alive and getting more offloads is something we need to improve on because that’s the way rugby is going.
Who do you think will win this year’s Guinness Premiership?
It’s a very close call because at the moment anyone can beat anyone, but I think Leicester have obviously been in form consistently.
I think Northampton have the finishers to really challenge but Saracens have played some pretty no-nonsense rugby that has meant they’ve ground out wins. If they can get a few more tries they’re one of the teams to beat.
I’d probably say Northampton could sneak it though if they’re on fire and the opposite teams allow the likes of Foden, Ashton, and their big back-row players to play.
Finally, do you have any words of advice for young rugby players looking to emulate your success?
It’s about putting in that little bit of extra work in after training. Effectively what you put in is what you get out in rugby. Work hard, on all the different areas and you’ll make it.