England flanker James Haskell has admitted that he didn’t deserve a place in Warren Gatland’s Lions squad.
The Wasps player will instead be part of Eddie Jones’ England squad, along with Dylan Hartley, for this summer’s tour of Argentina while the Lions are in New Zealand, but speaking to the Times, Haskell is staying philosophical on the omission:
“The Lions for me is the pinnacle of every rugby player’s career and it’s the difference between being a good player and a great player.
“I obviously wasn’t good enough to do it. That’s the fact.”
After a strong performance in the 2016 Six Nations and the tour of Australia, Haskell was forced to undergo surgery on a long-standing toe injury, and while he returned in time for this year’s championship, he seemingly didn’t do enough in that time to convince Gatland of his credentials.
Haskell himself, however, won’t use injuries an excuse:
“I don’t really like to make excuses.
“I thought I played well in the Six Nations and put myself out there. Could I have done any more? Not really. I just wasn’t good enough in their eyes. Excuses might give you comfort at night but it’s down to facts.”
As it was, Ireland and Wales dominated the flanker positions, with CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty and captain Sam Warburton all keeping Haskell, who admittedly was always only in with an outside shot, out of the 41-man panel.
Despite missing out on Lions selection, the 32-year-old still has plenty to look forward to over the next few weeks and months. Wasps are on the verge of securing a home semi-final in the Premiership, while Haskell will be one of the few senior players in a very experimental England squad against the Pumas in June.
“I didn’t think I was going to go [on the Lions tour] but it was still difficult.
”I was disappointed. I went home and spoke to my missus It was like, ‘Oh, that’s shit.’ I went away and thought about it, but I’m done with it. If something happens, they all die and they want me, then I’ll be in the mix but I’d rather focus on Wasps and on the England stuff.
“I’m on another journey of self-improvement in terms of attention to detail off the field; doing the little things to get the best out of my performance because I want to play well for Wasps and I want to play well for England. It’s an addictive thing. Playing well for your club and being in finals with your mates is what you dream about.”
At the age of 32, Haskell’s dream of playing for the Lions may now never happen, but he will continue to look for the positives.
On the Oval Office rugby podcast this week, we hear from Gordon D’Arcy and Nick Evans, and talk PRO12, Premiership and Lions midfield.