Saints clash provides Haskell with a Spartans-style Ricoh farewell

Date: 23 Apr 2018

James Haskell may have recently celebrated his engagement on the cover of Hello magazine, but when it comes to his career pragmatism undoubtedly trumps romance.

Nonetheless, when he considers the end of his second stint at Wasps – which at five years is two short of his opening stanza – he has a near-perfect ending in mind.
“We all dream of finishing like Ma’a Nonu or Richie McCaw by lifting the World Cup final and going out on your shield, but sadly quite a few players go out the back door on a stretcher instead,” he says.
“When you reflect on how things will finish, you always hope it will be on your terms, but unfortunately for most guys it’s not like that.
“Sam Jones suffered a similar thing, and when I talk about how I’d ideally like to finish my career I think about Sam who really had no choice with his.
“Getting the chance to come back to Wasps was amazing, and I always hoped I would see my career out there with a Premiership final and a trophy, which could still be the case.
“However, I obviously also do still have some rugby left in me, so in a way it’s a hard one for me.
“That said, I’m not a person that’s prone to being overly emotional. If I hadn’t left once before then come back and wasn’t as pragmatic as I am, maybe I’d be feeling it more.

“The move to Coventry has been very successful, and the Ricoh is a great stadium for me to have that final home game in, and I hope I get the opportunity to say goodbye to the fans there.”
And looking ahead to Sunday’s round 21 Aviva Premiership encounter with Northampton, the former club captain is expecting the kind of massively physical encounter to which he has brought so much over the years.
“It’s a huge encounter for us,” he says. “Saints rescued their season a little bit against Leicester last week – they put in a great performance as not many people leave Welford Road with a win.
“As a very good side with some top players they’ll no doubt be very disappointed in how their season has gone. They have always been a side that has caused us lots of problems. Their forwards are very direct and they have plenty of talented guys in the backline.
“They will no doubt have been galvanised by their win at Leicester, and to be honest it’s the kind of situation in which the formbook is irrelevant. I’m sure they will want to hit the ground running at the Ricoh in front of a big crowd in the sunshine.
“It’s vitally important that we sign off there with a full 80-minute performance, as against Northampton that’s always what is required.”

Whether appearance number 198 arrives in the starting line-up or from the bench, the long-serving back-rower is guaranteed a massive welcome from the Ricoh faithful, about whom he has admiring words.
“The amazing loyalty of our fans will always be a strong memory for me,” he says.
“You’ve seen how many people have followed us from London to Wycombe then to Coventry and those who haven’t been able to make it regularly are still with us in spirit. It’s always been about one big family really.
“The supporters welcomed me with open arms when I first arrived, weren’t so happy when I left, but welcomed me again when I returned, and I owe them all a huge thank you.”

The rest of Paul Smith’s interview with James Haskell is in next Sunday’s match programme.
Tickets are still available for the round 21 Aviva Premiership visit of Northampton Saints on Sunday April