Haskell looking forward to back-row battle

Having kept his place in the starting lineup for the First Test Wasps' James Haskell cannot wait to take on Australia's well-renowned back-row on Saturday.

The back-row is arguably Australia’s biggest asset as they boast Scott Fardy and 2015 World Rugby Player of the Year nominees Michael Hooper and David Pocock – with the trio proving crucial in their run to the Rugby World Cup final. 

And while Haskell is mindful of the threat the England back-rowers face, it is a task that the Wasps star insists they cannot wait to tuck into.

“It’s a huge challenge, their whole back-row performed extremely well during the World Cup,” Haskell added.

“Pocock was already a world class player but he gained legendary status after the way he performed at the World Cup, Fardy was the unsung hero and he was great and Hooper, when I came over here to play, was probably one of the best players I played against. 

“We know exactly what it’s about but as a player you have to have every confidence you can go there and match them. At this point in time you’re more worried about yourselves than their team.”

Wasps' captain James Haskell was a key member of England's Grand Slam winning back-row, but Haskell admits he cannot sit comfortably in Australia with the other Test contenders breathing down his neck.

Haskell, Chris Robshaw and Billy Vunipola formed the starting back-row for every game at the RBS 6 Nations as Eddie Jones' side secured England’s first Grand Slam since 2003.

But despite that success 31-year-old Haskell – who is on course to earn his 69th cap in Brisbane on Saturday – knows he has a battle on to keep his place in the side.

Jack Clifford, having made his Red Rose debut at the RBS 6 Nations, is in the mix across the back-row as is Teimana Harrison – the Northampton Saints flanker shooting to prominence after a superb season in the Premiership.

Harrison started England’s victory over Wales last weekend at blindside flanker, while European Player of the Year Maro Itoje is also an option in the back-row.

And Haskell has only welcomed the stiff competition for places.

“You’re always on your toes with training here, the way we train is very intense and quite physical at times,” he said. 

“You never want to let yourself down so everyone is aware there’s no complacency at all. With the two guys (Clifford and Harrison), they’re quality and could easily start in any position. 

“They’ve been fantastic and they’ll be pushing everyone, just as I am as hungry to start as anyone. 

“(The competition for places) never becomes an issue, and once the coaches make the decision the sign of a good squad is that the players who aren’t involved make all the difference to help prepare the starting team and get behind them.”