James Haskell reveals he once went for trials with Wales 6 months ago

James Haskell reveals he once went for trials with Wales

"It got to a point where they were playing each other and I was named in both squads."

James Haskell has played 77 times for England, represented his country at two World Cups and won three Guinness Six Nations championships with a red rose on his chest.

Very early on in his career, however, and Haskell was being courted by the Welsh Rugby Union.

The Northampton and England star was joined by former England prop Paul Doran Jones and host Alex Payne on JOE UK's House of Rugby and he recounted an extremely close call that could have seen him lining out for Wales.

Haskell qualified to play for Wales through his Welsh grandmother and, as he was a big prospect at underage level, he had invites to trials from both the WRU and England's RFU. He comments:

"I did England Under 18s and I did Wales Under 18s at the same time. Not a lot of people know this... I did them both at the same time. I did Welsh Exiles and England stuff. It got to a point where they were playing each other and I was named in both squads.

"It was unbelievable."


Very much keeping his options open, Haskell recalls getting healthy expenses for travel to and from Wales, for the trials, as a particular bonus.

"For England, you had to fill it in and do a form. But with the Welsh, a bloke used to set up a pasting table, pull out a briefcase, open it up and say, 'Right, where have you come from?'

"I'd say, 'England, mate' and he was like, 'How far is that?'.

"'700 miles, round-trip', I'd say and he'd be like that [paying the cash out]. That is why the WRU were trying to merge Ospreys. They lost all the cash doing our expenses!"

For an 18-year-old Haskell, the £70 and £80 expenses would keep him well fed and watered. Doran Jones used to drive along to some of these trials with Haskell but both would claim separate expenses.

Finally, the time came to make a decision. Haskell, as West Ham's Declan Rice has done for the footballers, opted for England and had to break the news to the Welsh.

"And then I called them up when I was about to get announced and I said, 'Listen, I've decided to go for England'.

"'James, I can't believe it,' he replied. 'Are you, are you f***ing serious boy? We looked after you, put you on the Welsh Exiles, you've a grandmother from Wales. Don't you want to play?'"

Haskell had hoped it would e possible to line out for both U18s sides but that fixture clash forced him to make a call. "My name is mud over there," he admits.

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Episode 22 sees Alex Payne joined by James Haskell and Paul Doran Jones to discuss rugby friendships, trials with Wales and Ireland, maxing out credit cards and the finale of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.