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England have beefed up their loose trio and will unleash Highlanders flank James Haskell to counter the big Springbok pack in tomorrow’s final Test at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Haskell has produced some powerful performances for the Highlanders in Super Rugby this season. Now England coach Stuart Lancaster has tasked Haskell, who is an experienced campaigner with 42 Test caps, with providing that physical edge and taking the game to the Boks.
The 27-year-old is 1,94m and weighs in at a hefty 114kg, so his size will come in handy tomorrow when he comes up against Bok debutant Jacques Potgieter, who is the same height and weighs 1kg more. “I haven’t coached James before, but I find him very positive, upbeat ... he’s a bit of an extrovert character, but in a good way. He brings a lot of energy to the team, and energy is one thing, but physicality is another. We are looking to him to bring that physicality into our back row, both as a defender and ball-carrier,” Lancaster said.
“He has been brilliant and certainly brought a lot of experience in there. He is enthusiastic and wants to do well and improve. He is always there at the end of training, working on his skills. He brings physicality, both in our ‘carrying’ game and our ‘stopping’ game. When we are faced with guys who are ‘coming around the corner’, we need to have good defenders who can stop them.
“He has done a lot of work in the contact area and thinks a lot about it, and he likes to see that as a point of difference in his game as well.
“We have to manage the referee’s interpretation in that area, so that we can get the best out of James.”
Another former Super Rugby player in No8 Thomas Waldrom will join Haskell in the loose trio. Haskell and Waldrom are two of the six changes Lancaster made to his starting line-up. They replace captain Chris Robshaw (injured) and Ben Morgan respectively, while Andy Goode will make his first Test start in place of Ben Foden, who shifts from fullback to left wing, ahead of David Strettle.
Scrumhalf Danny Care, loosehead prop Alex Corbisiero and lock Tom Palmer all get their first Test start on tour in place of Ben Youngs (injured), Joe Marler and Mouritz Botha. Former Sharks centre Brad Barritt also returns via the bench after sitting out last week’s second Test with an eye injury.