England keep Tuilagi in reserve
“As a player there have been times, particularly under new coaches, when I’ve looked down the barrel of a gun in terms of not playing for England again. I never knew if I’d get an opportunity again. Back in the autumn I did think to myself: ‘I would definitely be missing this if I hadn’t got back into the squad.‘ You get the smell of the hot-dogs and the fans on those special Twickenham Saturdays. I’ll be a fan one day but at the moment it’s way too soon.”
Injuries to others have helped but the 27-year-old Haskell also says he has been refreshed by his stints playing in France, Japan and New Zealand. “I do feel reinvigorated,” he insisted. “I knew if I went away I’d be more enriched as a person, would probably grow up and come back a better player. Before I went I didn’t have to take a lot of responsibility for myself but I’ve learned I can deal with most things thrown at me. Running out to play for England is just as exciting as it ever was. I’ll keep playing for as long as they want me.”
His priority now is to cement his place again with a host of rivals snapping at his heels. “I’m an older member of the squad and I need to make an impact. You can’t afford to have a soft game. Guys like Billy Vunipola, Matt Kvesic, Calum Clark and Tom Johnson ... there are plenty of other young players coming through as well. It’s about going over there and making sure we impose ourselves.” Additional reporting Guardian Service
England:A Goode (Saracens); C Ashton (Saracens), B Barritt (Saracens), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby), M Brown (Harlequins); O Farrell (Saracens), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers); J Marler (Harlequins), T Youngs (Leicester Tigers), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), J Launchbury (London Wasps), G Parling (Leicester Tigers), J Haskell (London Wasps), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), T Wood (Northampton Saints). Replacements:D Hartley (Northampton Saints), D Wilson (Bath Rugby), M Vunipola (Saracens), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), T Waldrom (Leicester Tigers), D Care (Harlequins), T Flood (Leicester Tigers), M Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers).