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James Haskell has revealed the poverty-line salary he was paid playing in New Zealand

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James Haskell of the Highlanders. (Photo by Teaukura Moetaua/Getty Images)

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Recently retired England international James Haskell has opened up about all things rugby over his career with The Times, including what drove him to move to New Zealand.


Haskell revealed the paltry sum he received to play Super Rugby, saying that it ‘cost me more to play for them’.

“I went to the Highlanders for NZ$20,000 a year. It cost me more to play for them but I went there for the love of the game,” he told The Times.

“I have been all around the world and enjoyed every day of it. You get one chance at life and I wanted to maximise it.”

Had that been the only income Haskell received whilst playing in New Zealand, it would put him below the country’s poverty line. Unicef determined the poverty line for New Zealand at $28,000 or less in household income in 2016.

Haskell played 12 times for the Highlanders over 2012-13 before joining Wasps where he made over 100 appearances before moving to Northampton Saints after the 2017-18 season.

He made 77 caps for England from 2007-19 and was a part of England’s 2011 and 2015 World Cups, of which both didn’t turn out to be satisfying.

“Both World Cups I was a part of turned out to be shambolic and disappointing. I would have liked to have had Eddie Jones coaching me through a World Cup. He would have made it something very different.

“My best games for England were under Eddie. He got the best out of me.

Haskell believes that this England squad has what it takes to win the World Cup but there will always be a part of him that wishes he was a part of it.

“I met Eddie and said I was going to retire. I wanted to thank him and I offered to help the squad if I can. I am more sad because I genuinely believe they can win the World Cup. If they do, 99 percent of me will be very happy. The other one percent will be, like, ‘f…’.”

He believes that for anyone to catch the back-to-back World Champions, a paradigm shift towards skill development is required from other nations instead of the obsession towards size. His only criticism of the game now is the lack of personalities in the game with everything so ‘boring’.

“For the game to evolve and to get to the level of New Zealand, people have to want to pick up a ball first and not weight.”

“Skills are fundamental. As are personalities. That is one criticism I would have of the game now: everything is so sanitised. You can’t say this, do that, offend that person, you must reshoot that photo because it had the wrong mobile phone in, or not ask that question. It is just all boring.

Gregor Townsend names his Scotland World Cup squad:

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