Sport, and rugby in particular, needs James Haskell. Brash, outspoken and at times just plain crackers, the England player spent a career - according to this book, 'What A Flanker,' anyway - winding up and annoying his team mates, then winning them over through sheer determination and hard work on the pitch. It’s a tactic that has continued through his post-rugby career, as a 2019 entrant on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, as one third of the unmissable line-up in House of Rugby (now The Good the Bad and the Rugby) and potentially, one day, as a fighter in MMA (and it’s a fair bet, after reading his book, ticket sales will be from 99% of the ruby community, hoping to see him get a pasting).
Haskell’s career hasn’t been without controversy, some of that particularly unpleasant in the form of a sexual harassment accusation from a New Zealand hotel maid during the 2011 World Cup. It would have been easy for him to stick to the easy laughs, the inevitable public school boy banter (don’t worry, if beer bottles up the bum and hangovers at Auschwitz are your thing, there’s plenty of that) and the self-deprecating career assessment, but he doesn’t shy away from the bad times and gives an honest account of his side of things, which is commendable when your income is now essentially based on public perception. And it’s this honesty that makes him much needed for the sport. Rugby is, by Haskell’s own admission, a niche game and it needs big characters to elevate it into popular culture where, ultimately, it needs to reside if it's to survive. And he is a big character, in every sense. From Wasps as a teenager, to England, and then a life abroad testing himself and his abilities at the highest possible levels, Haskell is living proof that hard work pays off, but you’re only here once, so enjoy it while you can. Recommended.