Former England rugby star-turned MMA fighter James Haskell has revealed an explosive exchange with All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick, moments after the All Blacks beat England in the first test of the 2014 series in New Zealand.
Haskell, who retired from professional rugby earlier this year after a career including 77 tests for England and two appearances for the British and Irish Lions, said Retallick’s inability to name a single England forward in a press conference leading up to the match, riled the visitors up.
Retallick famously failed to correctly name a single player when asked – the closest he came was “Michael Laws”, who at the time was mayor of Whanganui, presumably in reference to English lock “Courtney Lawes”.
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Retallick was reminded of the incident at a press conference on Monday, ahead of the World Cup semifinal clash with the English in Yokohama City.
“Is that supposed to be humorous? I made a mistake and called him the wrong name … a New Zealand politician. Yeah, good on ya. We have great respect for all the rugby players out there,” Retallick hit back at an English journalist.
“Yeah, we know who they are and we know what they’re about so obviously we look at every opposition leading into the weekend. But we’re also certainly focused on what we’re going to do to get that right.”
In a column for the Daily Mail, Haskell reveals how much Retallick’s faux pas irritated the English visitors.
“It was five years ago but I remember how much it irritated us. I thought: ‘Cheers, mate, I’ve spent all week talking about you lot, I know the name of everyone in your team.’
“After that match – which we lost – I walked past Retallick and said: ‘Learn our f****** names next time you p****’.
“All hell would have broken loose if the boot was on the other foot. If I’d come out and talked about ‘Colin Retallick’ then the Kiwis would have been trotting out the ‘arrogant English’ line.
“It turns out, of course, that Retallick is a top man and an even better player,” Haskell wrote.
“At the time, it struck me as a bit of Kiwi arrogance, but after speaking to people I realised that it’s because they just focus on what they do. They look at opposition threats but they don’t care about anyone else.”
The mind games ahead of the crunch semifinal clash have been ramped up over the past 24 hours with England coach Eddie Jones claiming someone was spying on his team’s training session on Tuesday, and Haskell also saying the All Blacks haka is “just 15 blokes dancing”.
Kick-off is at 5pm local time.
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