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House of Rugby

13th Feb 2019

James Haskell on his unforgettable introduction to Maro Itoje on England duty

Patrick McCarry

Tough introduction from the lads.

James Haskell can still recall his first training session with Saracens star Maro Itoje. The versatile forward, who looks set to miss the rest of the Guinness Six Nations with a knee injury, was long identified as a player that would do well at Test level.

He led England U20s to a junior world championship title in the summer of 2014 and was playing for Saracens in the Premiership the following season. He made his Test debut in the 2016 Six Nations and would go on to win a Grand Slam with England just seven weeks after his first international outing.

On the latest episode of JOE UK’s House of Rugby, Haskell spoke about training with Itoje for the first time and his own memorable introduction to the England squad.

“Week one of his rugby training with England and Maro was going super nause,” Haskell remarked. “You just don’t know the level. You don’t have a gentleman’s agreement but you don’t go completely insane.

“Like, you’d have a tackle drill but you don’t try and end the bloke… I remember Maro, in one of the first things we were doing, I ran into him casually and went to place the ball thinking, ‘This will be fine’. He just folded me up sideways, threw me on the floor, stole the ball and trod on my head!

“I was like, ‘Maro, calm down’.”

Haskell made his own first steps within the England set-up back in 2007 and can still recall the introduction he got to the senior squad, thanks to some of the Leicester Tigers boys.

“In my very first England session, I went in and tackled someone. I got back to my fight and stole the ball – must have been a first – and then I remember just hearing this, ‘F***ing nause!’ and as I stood up, I got punched in the face.

“I looked up and I was ready to go, and there was Martin Corry, Louis Deacon and someone else, and I didn’t know who to hit. And then I realised it was Deacs. He had just welcomed me, full Leicester.

“So, for the next drill I just did the same thing, stole the ball and took it away. I was like, ‘Come on’, and it was play on.”

Former England captain Mike Tindall joined in with some of great memories of his training sessions as an eager, young player and, years later, as a veteran looking to avoid as much training ground contact as possible:

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Episode 17 sees Alex Payne joined by Mike Tindall and James Haskell to discuss round one of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.