I’m pretty aware people don’t like me,” says James Haskell with the brashness that some people revile him for on the day he launches his autobiography, What a Flanker.
Since being forced into retirement through injury in May 2019, Haskell has continued to put himself through the blender with a Mixed Martial Arts career (currently on hold), a stay in the I’m a Celebrity jungle, and a series of podcasts which dig into rugby past and present, and his personal life.
Now he has written a book, delving into the fiasco of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, taking guns into Pennyhill Park, team socials as a teenager in the great Wasps side of the 2000s, and how Stuart Lancaster worked the longest hours without reward at RWC2015.
“To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure my career warranted an autobiography when you have people like Eddie Jones and Sir Alex Ferguson talking about all the amazing things they have done – I just didn’t think anyone would be interested,” the 77-cap Haskell told The Rugby Paper.
“I was adamant that I did not want it to be an ordinary autobiography. We decided it would be a laugh, emotional, with short stories to get down to the nitty gritty.
“I didn’t want to do it while I was still playing because it is very difficult to speak up about things. Then I retired and it became something open to me, and I really enjoyed the process.”
As one third of The Good, the Bad and the Rugby podcast alongside Mike Tindall and Alex Payne, Haskell has a platform to speak his mind, although his opinions don’t go down well with everyone.
Living with the feeling of not being universally liked is a byproduct of Haskell’s need to express himself, avoiding an insular existence that can come from the pressures of representing a club or the RFU that has led a number of rugby players into battles with mental health.
Asked where the pressure comes from Haskell replies: “It is the media, it is the fans. I think I have always divided opinion – and having an opinion in this day and age is not a good thing. If you stick your head above the parapet you are going to get chewed out.
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October 11, 2020