Rugby Club: James Haskell insists the All Blacks are human and beatable
Last Updated: 30/05/14 8:34am
James Haskell: Back in the fold
James Haskell is adamant that England will stare into the eyes of the All Blacks this summer and feel no fear having seen through the mirage of the most revered shirt in international rugby.
The initial party of England players landed in New Zealand this week ahead of their first Test against the world champions in two weeks. They will be joined by reinforcements from Saracens and Northampton following the Aviva Premiership final this weekend.
"When you are facing the haka and the whole culture it is very easy to get caught up in the headlights and I think a lot of these boys won't believe that because they have had these opportunities to play the All Blacks at Twickenham."
The second wave of Stuart Lancaster's squad will not arrive in time to challenge for a place in that opening test, stripping England of much-need experience and quality for the opening clash with the All Blacks.
Haskell, though, insists Lancaster's charges will not become bamboozled by the aura that surrounds the All Blacks, especially in the 'land of the long white cloud' where rugby and culture are impossible to separate.
The Wasps flanker has seen bruised and bloodied All Blacks up close as a Highlander in the Super Rugby during his stint in New Zealand rugby.
And he insists the rest of the England team are emboldened having pierced the perceived invincibility of Steve Hansen's team by beating them at Twickenham in 2012 and running agonisingly close last autumn.
"I think that I learnt that the All Blacks are human, which is always a good thing," Haskell told the Rugby Club. "It is always very easy when you spend a lot of time watching highlights on Sky of the Super 15 and internationals.
"They go as a blur and these guys [look] immortal, they are unbelievable and they are playing some sort of brand of rugby that we don't know how to do over here.
"When you are facing the haka and the whole culture it is very easy to get caught up in the headlights and I think a lot of these boys won't believe that because they have had these opportunities to play the All Blacks at Twickenham. They beat them once and pushed them very hard a second time."
Haskell is one of those set to profit from the scheduling that will restrict Stuart Lancaster of a host of first-choice players for the opening Test.
With Northampton's Tom Wood and Saracens' Billy Vunipola preoccupied by domestic duties at Twickenham, Haskell has the opportunity to win a place in the England back-row for the opening Test and play his first international since March 2013.
And the flanker, who owes his place on the summer tour to his resurgent form with Wasps in recent months, is determined to pile the pressure on his rivals and retain the jersey for the following Tests on June 14 and 21.
He added: "If it goes well then you just raise the stakes, that is what rugby is all about, battling it out. We have great competition here with the boys. I love them all but it doesn't mean I wouldn't push them as hard as I can."