Back-rower derides lack of characters in game
JAMES HASKELL'S colourful personality may polarise opinion but the England back row is only happy to inject life into a sport he believes is now populated by "robots".
Wasps are benefiting from Haskell's return to form this season with director of rugby Dai Young describing him as a "30 to 40 per cent better player than this time last year".
Off the pitch, the 29-year-old is occupied by coffee and fitness businesses and a fledgling media career highlighted by interviews with Guy Ritchie, MC Hammer and David Haye.
Young views him as "the life and soul of any environment, even in an empty room he's always a crowd" – the type of character that Haskell fears is being driven out of rugby.
"There's this persona that follows me around. Wrongly I think, but obviously there's no smoke without fire," said Haskell.
"People will always talk about it when they write about me. If you've got character, in inverted commas, it happens.
"There are a lot of young players now who are like robots coming off the conveyor belt.
"If you're a little bit outspoken and enjoy things ... in this period of time people want very, very quiet characters. The game is missing characters and will continue to miss them.
"There aren't that many personalities coming through any more. Guys are getting younger."
Loud, confident and opinionated, Haskell is a prolific Tweeter who attracts criticism he believes is misguided.
"I enjoy doing stuff off the field. It's not like I'm big into nightclubs or go out drinking. All of my stuff is around working hard," he said.
"If people want to have a go at me then that's what they'll do, but I don't worry about it. It's something you have to deal with.
"However great social media is, it only shows one side of your personality.
"People say 'you're always in the gym'. I'm not. I spend all my time working on my game outside, doing my extras.
"But you can't film yourself in a team session when you're passing the ball. Little things like that irritate me. But I don't care."
Haskell is flourishing after seeing an improvement in the knee condition that set in during years of non-stop rugby and is desperate to add to his 50 caps.
England's tour to New Zealand this summer is a possible stage to resurrect his international career and he admits it would be "emotional" if he wins Stuart Lancaster's approval.
Longer term, he is looking at another stint overseas having already played in France, Japan and New Zealand.
"You never know what might happen – you could finish through injury, life takes many a turn," he said.
"I'm single at the moment, I don't have any kids, I don't have a missus, but these things can change.
"I haven't really finished my rugby adventure, I want to stay at Wasps for a while and then I want to maybe look at a Super 15 club again, France, or maybe finish in Japan.
"People talk about me finishing but last year I played in the Six Nations and got my 50th cap. I'm not towards the end of my career, I'm 29 and still have three or four years left in me."