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House of Rugby

16th Jan 2019

Chloe Madeley on husband James Haskell’s very particular pre-match routines

Patrick McCarry

Chloe Madeley

“I got quite lucky. They’re not all like this, from what I know.”

The ‘they’re’ Chloe Madeley is referring to is rugby players.

It is a subject she has learned a lot about ever since, at James’ urging, she jumped onboard ‘The Haskell Train’. The Northampton Saints and England star has been with Madeley since 2014 and the pair were wed in December 2018.

Alex Payne and Mike Tindall, his House of Rugby colleagues, were not at that ceremony but, Haskell assured them, Tindall will definitely be at the bigger bash in the off-season. Payne is looking good for an invite too.

Chloe Madeley joined her new husband on House of Rugby, on Tuesday, and offered Payne and Tindall, and tens of thousands of listeners, some fascinating insights into life with Haskell, his superstitions, pre-match routines, favourite meals, best memories, low points and life after rugby.

Madeley has proved a great source of practical, honest feedback for Haskell over the past five years but, she says, only when he comes seeking it. She does wish he would enjoy the successes more – such as the 2016 Grand Slam, white-washing Australia on tour and England retaining the Six Nations in 2017 – but she is glad that he has plenty of interests outside of rugby.

She did paint an interesting picture of how Haskell prepares for big games:

“I know that James, specifically, has a no drinking policy when he is playing. Other than that, the only time you’ll know that he is actually going to play a game is the morning of.

“He’ll wake up and he’s very specific about what he likes to eat. So it’s always oats and a protein shake and scrambled eggs on toast, for breakfast. And then for lunch, if its an evening game, fillet of salmon and brown rice with some greens. And he’s really big on hydration.

“What he’ll do before the game is two things. He will start by listening to music or DJing and then he will tidy the whole house.

“I remember one tournament when Stuart Lancaster was coaching [England], probably the [2015] Six Nations and would tidy the hotel room in Pennyhill Park from top to bottom – that was when we allowed to stay, which we’re not now. He would tidy everything.

“I said, ‘Oh, is this thing that you do?’ and I he was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know. It’s like tidying clutter and organising my head’, but it manifests itself with actual organising.”

Haskell confirmed the pre-match tidying routine and said he likes to be as relaxed as possible on the week of a big game before switching to game-mode.

As much as possible, he prefers to get his head down and focus on the match at hand. There was one notable exception when, back when partners were permitted to stay over at Pennyhill Park, Chloe accidentally knocked James’ laptop to the ground and cracked the screen.

“I left the room [for a team meeting] came back and Chloe was in tears, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’ve broken your laptop’,” Haskell recalled.

This happened just hours before an England game but Haskell remained remarkably calm. Unfortunate, but not a bad way to take one’s mind off a big match.

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Episode 14 sees Alex Payne joined by Mike Tindall, James Haskell and Chloe Madeley, who got married to James in late 2018, to discuss stag dos, wedding speeches, pre-match superstitions and life after rugby.