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Has Brad Shields just stolen James Haskell's life?

By Ian Cameron

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Wasps blindside James Haskell once joked that Harlequins loose-forward Chris Robshaw ‘stole his life’, alluding to the Harlequins stalwart’s tenure in England’s backrow – for a time as captain.


The pair would later go on to form an effective partnership under Eddie Jones in England’s backrow, both famously holding up an England T-Shirt with 6.5 emblazoned on it, brilliantly lampooning criticism levelled at both players, namely that neither was a true openside in the traditional sense.

Yet, it now seems that a New Zealand import – in rugby terms at least – may actually be about to steal Haskell’s life.

As widely reported, despite having amassed nearly 200 caps for Wasps, Haskell is not being offered a new contract – at least not a contract that’s amenable to the Wasps flanker. It has been widely speculated that Haskell is too old and possibly too injury prone to justify an expensive contract extension.

Yet it can’t be ignored that Haskell’s lack of a new contract comes just two months after Hurricanes flanker Brad Shields put pen to paper on a deal that sees him switch to the Coventry based club from the Hurricanes.

At 6’4 and 111kg, Shields will certainly fill the physical hole left if Haskell leaves – and he is six years younger to boot.


And it’s not just Haskell’s Wasps spot that is under threat from the Masterton born Shields. The England qualified New Zealander revealed to the Daily Mail that Jones has already come knocking on the door, telling the outlet that there has been ‘a little contact from Eddie and that’s awesome because it’s good to know there’s a pretty real opportunity”.

With Jones looking ahead to 2019, it’s hard not to see Shields as the more logical pick. Haskell has of course the experience of 75 caps to his name, something the uncapped Shields can’t compete with. Yet Jones has not been shy of dropping Haskell in the past and has even publically criticised his form, suggesting Jones is airing on the side of youth, or at least will look elsewhere in the squad for experience.

Haskell knows how difficult it will be to get back into the team. Writing in his column in the Sun in November: “Having been in the England set-up since 2007, it has never been this competitive or challenging to get in and then keep your spot.”

His recent four week ban for a high tackle on Jamie Roberts hasn’t helped his cause either. Injuries to England Number 8 specialists Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes would have likely seen him play some part in the Six Nations, but his ban will now mean the likes of Simmonds, Underhill and Mercer will all be given valuable window time to impress.


Regardless of his future at Wasps or in an England shirt, he’s too good a player and has too much left to give to find himself without a club. Rumour has it that Bristol or Northampton Saints could be that club, and he’d be a huge asset for either.

However, witnessing Shields’ apparent supplanting of Haskell, it’s hard not to view it as a parable for the professional game. No matter how many caps you have, how big your name is, or how many years you’ve been at a club, you could find yourself surplass to requirements with precious little notice.

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Has Brad Shields just stolen James Haskell's life?