Yesterday I twittered James Haskell to tell him Lawrence Dallaglio is backing him to start for England against Argentina on Saturday at Twickenham. He turned things around when he came on for Leicester's Jordan Crane against Australia last week, full of energy and endeavour. Today, even better news... confirmation of his place in the first 15 despite leaving Wasps for Stade Francais in the summer.
Here's the story I wrote for the paper this morning:
YESTERDAY James Haskell was so miffed by the weather in not-so-sunny Surrey, he called for a radical move to summer rugby.
Today, he’ll be officially told he’s back in the England starting line-up for Saturday’s clash with Argentina at Twickenham, where the Windsor-born 6ft 4in loose forward will revel in the mud of a British autumn.
Through the mists of a winter’s morning at England’s Bagshot base yesterday, jameshaskell grumbled on www.twitter-com: “Raining and miserable at Pennyhill Park, but mood is good. Forwards and team session this morning.
“I vote we make rugby a summer sport, we would only have to compete with cricket. Bigger crowds, better games and more hospitality.”
Within hours twitters were flying and Haskell accepted: “Okay, taking some heat for my summer chat. Didn’t think about the hard grounds. But we live in England and the hardest it gets is medium soft.”
And, as news of his selection for Saturday began to permeate the England camp, that was soon followed by: “Keep it winter. Too many good arguments. Hard pitches are the main reason.”
And just to make things perfect for the No8 who moved from Wasps to Stade Francais last summer, his old Wellington College pal Paul Doran-Jones is in the squad too.
Best not to mention the pair of them were suspended over a video camera incident at one of Britain’s poshest public schools in 2003.
England boss Martin Johnson had little choice in calling up Gloucester’s Doran-Jones. With David Wilson and David Barnes forced out by injury, there are no other front-row options.
Bath veteran Duncan Bell and Tim Payne of Wasps will start at tight-head and loose-head with the versatile Doran-Jones as cover on both sides.
Northampton’s Dylan Hartley will start between them at hooker, with World Cup-winner Steve Thompson reverting to the bench.
Graham Rowntree, England’s scrum coach, said: “I like what I see in Paul. I’ve been watching him all season, I think he’s a true prospect for the future. He’s good at a lot of things and I give him my full backing.
“He’s good enough and that’s what we’ll tell him. Paul has a great attitude, he’s fitted in well since he’s been with us.”
Jordan Crane, replaced at No 8 by Haskell during the defeat against Australia last Saturday, has been told he can go back to train with Leicester this weekend.
And the full team? Probable: Monye (Harlequins); Cueto (Sale), Hipkiss (Leicester), Geraghty (Northampton), Banahan (Bath); Wilkinson (Toulon), Hodgson (London Irish); Payne (Wasps), Hartley (Northampton), Bell (Bath); Borthwick (Saracens, capt), Deacon; Croft (both Leicester), Haskell (Stade Francais), Moody (Leicester).
Replacements: Doran-Jones (Gloucester), Thompson (Brive), Lawes (Northampton), Worsley (Wasps), Care (Harlequins), Goode (Brive), Erinle (Biarritz).
England v Argentina,Saturday, live on Sky Sports 2, from 2pm
ELITE squad players sent back to clubs: D Strettle (Harlequins), B Foden (Northampton), M Tait (Sale Sharks), R Wigglesworth (Sale Sharks), S Armitage (London Irish), D Barnes (Bath), G Chuter (Leicester), J Crane (Leicester), B Kay (Leicester), D Wilson (Bath).