JAMES Haskell returned to Wasps to nail an England starting spot, but former Red Rose skipper Lewis Moody admits he still has some way to go.
After last season’s relegation fright, Wasps have been enjoying themselves this season, with Haskell a central figure after arriving back at Adams Park via France, Japan and New Zealand.
But, while Haskell has been an almost ever-present in the Wasps No.7 shirt, with skipper Chris Robshaw, Tom Johnson, Tom Wood and an injured Tom Croft on the scene, playing there for England seems unlikely.
This means the No.8 shirt looks to be his best chance for a regular England spot, though, with Ashley Johnson and Billy Vunipola in his way at Wasps, and Ben Morgan and Thomas Waldrom doing so internationally, Haskell has found starts few and far between.
While admitting that Haskell is certainly in the mix, Moody is adamant we need to see more of him before he is one of the first names on Stuart Lancaster’s teamsheet.
“There are questions all around the pitch in terms of who should start in certain shirts but I think none more so than at No.8,” said Moody, speaking at the launch of this season’s LV= Cup.
“You have three guys there, Haskell, Morgan and Waldrom, but none of them at the minute has out and out nailed that position.
“When you have that competition for places, it brings the best out of people and the hint of a Lions tour as well might just bring that extra little out too.
“James has come back to England with that in mind I think, holding down a regular England spot.
“And, while he has been playing well, you can’t say he is miles ahead of everyone else.
“Maybe it takes some time to get back into the English game but he is heading in the right direction but he isn’t there just yet, so these autumn games could be make-or-break for him and his ambitions at No.8 in an England shirt.”
Haskell was almost forced to sit out England’s opening autumn Test with Fiji but was only given a retrospective yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Alistair Hargreaves in Wasps’ defeat to Saracens at the weekend.
No matter what the immediate future holds for Haskell, Moody believes returning to his old stomping ground will work in England’s favour, too.
“I was really pleased when Haskell announced he was coming back to England as he needs to be over here to play internationally and he is an important squad member, no doubt about it,” Moody added.
“I think the fact that he is back in a Wasps shirt adds something and you can see that from his this season, he looks more eager than ever out on the pitch.
“He knows what that club is all about and he is a returning hero. It is no surprise that them looking better this season has coincided with his return and now the next step for him is to repeat that in an England shirt on a regular basis.”
The LV= Cup kicks off on Friday, 9 November. Watch the next generation break through. For tickets and info, visit www.lv.com/rugby