Highlanders' UK import Haskell sad to be leaving

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 05/07/2012
James Haskell
CHRIS HILLOCK/Fairfax NZ
SIGN OFF: Highlanders import James Haskell will probably sign off on his time in New Zealand rugby after tomorrow night's game against the Reds.

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Highlanders import James Haskell will probably sign off on his time in New Zealand rugby after tomorrow night's game against the Reds, but he will look back fondly on his time here.

"It's sad that it's coming to a close although there's still an opportunity for us to qualify, which is important so we want to make sure we give a good account for ourselves in Brisbane to make sure that we finish on a high," the English international said.

"Jamie Joseph has created a great atmosphere here and we want to make sure we do it justice."

Haskell's New Zealand experience has been varied.

He provided excellent impact off the bench as John Hardie dominated the No7 jersey then found himself suspended for punching during the comeback against the Cheetahs in South Africa.

Despite not being based in the United Kingdom, he played well enough to earn selection in the England team for the series against the Springboks

"It's probably one of the best rugby experiences I've had," Haskell, who is expected to return to Premiership side Wasps, said of his time here.

"I wish I could carry on for another season, but unfortunately if I want to carry on playing for England I have to be playing in the UK in the Premiership.

"If I ever got the opportunity to come back here I'd love to do it. The people of Dunedin have been fantastic and it's been great alround."

After two years of almost continuous rugby, including last year's World Cup, a stint in Japan and Super Rugby, Haskell said he was looking forward to taking a break.

"The body is beginning to creak, I'm not going to lie to you. I could probably do with a rest and that's what I'm going to get once the job's done here, I'm going to try and take four or five weeks off."

Haskell said there had been several highlights during his time with the Highlanders, including his debut against the Chiefs, the win over the Crusaders in Dunedin and the comeback against the Cheetahs, even though he got suspended in that game.

Forcing his way back into the England team had also been a major positive, he said.

"Stuart Lancaster gave me an opportunity I wasn't sure I was going to get for a little while. To play 80 minutes against South Africa in Port Elizabeth was awesome. I think that's topped a really good rugby time for me."

Haskell has big hopes for Hardie, the Southland flanker who kept him on the bench earlier in the season.

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"I think John is a very good player. He showed glimpses of real quality when he played. He's one to watch and I think he'll definitely kick on.

"Obviously the back row in New Zealand is very competitive and as he develops and gets older he'll be more and more in the frame."

- The Southland Times

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