Haskell: It's do or die now
September 9, 2011
Haskell is fired up about facing Argentina in England's World Cup opener © Getty Images
James Haskell has warned Argentina that England are ready to hit them with an explosive mix of desperation, fear and desire in Saturday's Rugby World Cup opener.
England completed their final preparations with an intense training session and then a light run at the Otago Stadium - and there was no mistaking the change of mood in the squad as kick-off neared. Haskell is one of the jokers in the camp but he was deadly serious, vowing that England will meet Argentina's passion and fight fire with fire.
"The guys are ready to play," said Haskell. "We've had eight or nine weeks together, guys have been left by the wayside, there's been competition, there's been physicality, there's been ups and downs and it's just about getting that on the field and letting all that emotion come out.
"You can feel guys are desperate. With a World Cup like this there's a little bit of fear, there's a lot of expectation. And when people come to New Zealand where the whole place is rugby mad you want to make sure you perform.
"We all know it's very important to get a good result on the board to start with. We are in at the deep end against Argentina, our group is very tough. The talking stops. It's a World Cup. It's do or die."
The focus of every England-Argentina clash is on the scrum, with the Pumas boasting one of the most revered packs in the global game. England learned the consequences of losing the physical battle in their defeats last season to South Africa and Ireland and are steeling themselves for a brutal encounter.
"I've played with a number of their forwards at Stade Francais, Rodrigo Roncero, Juan Leguizamon," Haskell continued. "If you come to a World Cup and you are not ready for the physical challenge, there's no point being here.
"We know what Argentina is about, they are very passionate but so are we. Sometimes they are more expressive, whereas the Anglo-Saxon mentality is a bit more closed, not so outwardly passionate. But we pride ourselves on our passion as an English team.
"If you look at the team around us, every time I come out I feel privileged to be with the guys in an England shirt because there's so much talent."
Haskell will start opposite Leguizamon at openside flanker with Nick Easter back at No.8, having missed England's final World Cup warm-up win against Ireland with a calf injury. England's only other change is on the wing, where Delon Armitage starts ahead of Mark Cueto while scrum-half Ben Youngs will return to action from the bench after recovering from a knee injury.
Mike Tindall, a veteran of England's 2003 World Cup triumph, captains the team in the continued absence of Lewis Moody.
"We just want to get going now," said manager Martin Johnson. "There are enough re-runs on the tv, what-ifs and speculation. Let's get the games going now.
"Last night we went down to Carisbrook in the pouring rain and it was one of the most error-free sessions I have seen in a long time, in terrible conditions. That was a sign of the focus and mentality they - and they need to carry that through to the game."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures
"Our scrums and lineouts are sometimes not that good but our men are very brave." Ken Borland finds that rugby is on the rise in Senegal
Laurie Fisher talks about the Brumbies and Gloucester, and provides revealing thoughts on the player involvement during the glory days in Canberra