sport

Haskell aiming for revival

Wasps flanker James Haskell aspires to European rugby next season in a bid to further his England career.

The Adams Park side host Stade Francais in the European Rugby Champions Cup play-off first leg at Adams Park on Sunday.

That the decorated High Wycombe club must qualify for a seat at Europe's top table may never rest easily with those who were part of a glorious spell that yielded seven trophies between 2003 and 2008.

The mere notion of former glories does not sit well with Haskell, but Wasps' outspoken back row forward grimaces and addresses 'the old days'.

The 29-year-old was a replacement when Wasps last lifted the Heineken Cup, some seven years ago now, by dispatching Leicester 25-9 at Twickenham.

Haskell, who has 50 Test caps but is desperate not to be left stranded at the milestone, knows top-flight European action holds the key to personal and collective progress.

"Every rugby player aspires to play in Europe," he told Press Association Sport.

"We don't like to harp on about the old days but this club especially has had some great days in Europe, and we certainly want more.

"If you go through your season, you don't win anything, you don't have any standout days, rugby becomes a job, whereas if you get these big occasions, you get to play and win, it becomes a career."

Haskell last represented England in the demoralising 30-3 Six Nations demolition by Wales in Cardiff in March 2013.

But the ambitious loose forward refuses to believe his international career is over.

"I'd love to get back into the England reckoning, that's what has always driven me as a rugby player, it's always the top aim," he said.

"It was tough to miss out on the autumn internationals and the Six Nations, but I won't give up on forcing my way back in."

Lean times on the fiscal front lurched Wasps from one near-disaster to another after big players such as Lawrence Dallaglio, Simon Shaw and Josh Lewsey passed into retirement.

Now the books are balancing under new ownership, and director of rugby Dai Young has manfully shaped a side with razor-sharp attacking impetus.

Like boss Young, Haskell knows Wasps must push their overall approach beyond flashpoint attacking raids, especially to see off Stade over two legs.

Haskell spent two years at the cosmopolitan Parisian haunt between 2009 and 2011, and knows full well the intimidating spectacle in store at Stade Jean Bouin on Saturday, May 24.

So the bullish back-rower has issued a simple challenge to Wasps' supporters this weekend: to empty their lungs and transform Adams Park into an arena every bit as daunting as Stade's French capital cauldron.

"English rugby fans in general are pretty quiet," said Haskell.

"But we'll need the Wasps fans to be noisier than ever on Sunday.

"We'll face something pretty intense over in France, so we need to give Stade something to think about when we're at home.

"Having that value of really cheering, getting behind your side and making a lot of noise, it makes a massive difference.

"It builds the spectacle and gets the best out of the players."