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03rd May 2017

Hard to argue with James Haskell on the game that massively hurt his Lions chances

"It’s the difference between being a good player and a great player"

Patrick McCarry

James Haskell was not the only England player to suffer on the final day of the Six Nations.

Having blown Scotland out of the water to retain their championship, won in Grand Slam style in 2016, England’s winning Test run was halted at 18.

The side to do it were the same side that stopped New Zealand at 18 too – Joe Schmidt’s Ireland.

Had England won in Dublin when the pressure was well and truly on, claimed a second Grand Slam and broke the world record for consecutive wins, there may well have been an irresistible call for Warren Gatland to fill his squad with their victorious players.

As it transpired, Haskell’s Wasps were then shown up by Leinster, two weeks later, in the Champions Cup. Gatland named his Lions squad four days after that quarter final loss and while there was a healthy English contingent (14 out of 41) only Elliott Daly of Wasps made the cut.

Having held his council for the past couple of weeks, Haskell told The Guardian of his lions heartache. He identified that Ireland game as one in which he lost a grip on a Lions jersey and opened the door to an Irishman. Haskell said:

“Ireland versus England had a massive role to play in it; Peter O’Mahony played his way in.

“Ross Moriarty played his way in during Wales v England. It’s about peaking at the right time and seizing your opportunity. I obviously failed to do that.”

O’Mahony was told he would start at blindside for that England game and delivered a man of the match performance. Haskell struggled to match the intensity shown by the likes of O’Mahony and Donnacha Ryan – he made 14 successful tackles but coughed up a turnover and made only eight metres off five carries.

The 32-year-old does not figure he will ever make it as a Lion now and, barring injuries, it is hard to disagree. Still, he is pragmatic about missing out.

“The Lions for me is the pinnacle of every rugby player’s career,” he said. “It’s the difference between being a good player and a great player and I obviously wasn’t good enough to do it. That’s the fact.”