James Haskell insists he has morphed from a “wardrobe with a head” into a Terminator during his rehabilitation from a serious toe injury.
England resume their Grand Slam defence when they host Italy next Sunday, with Haskell now considered fit enough to start after acting as one of Eddie Jones’ ‘finishers’ in the victories over France and Wales.
The 31-year-old was a bulwark of the RBS 6 Nations champions’ success under Jones until foot surgery resulted in a seven-month absence that finally came to an end in January.
It was during the lay-off that the muscle-bound flanker tried new approaches to enhance his game.
“I have just worked very hard on my mobility. I run a fitness business and people get bogged down with the idea I spend all my time in the gym, but I never do any bodybuilding training or anything like that,” Haskell said.
“All my training is focussed around mobility and being a better rugby player. That is what I have hammered hard. We have done a lot of stretching sessions.
“Now I probably look more like a T1000 as opposed to a wardrobe with a head. I move a little bit better, but I don’t think I will be Usain Bolt any time soon.
“When injured, I’ve tried to find the best people to work with. I’ve done weird and wonderful things. I’ve even been tied to a treadmill running backwards.
“Bar getting some nutty woman shouting at your foot with a crystal waving over your injury, I pretty much would be open-minded to try whatever I could.”
Haskell’s comeback at Wasps was interrupted by concussion and then difficulty with the troublesome toe and while the injury continues to be problematic, he insists he is ready to start against Italy.
“A lot of people would assume that you have surgery, come back and everything’s going to be great, but it’s an ongoing process,” Haskell said.
“It’s been a bit of a longer road for me. It’s not perfect, but I’m being managed well and I hope it’s one of things that will progressively get better over time.
“Basically, I had my tendon reattached and had something called the planter plate. I’m just left with an angry joint and an upset toe, really.
“Obviously David Haye gave a bit of a bad rap for toes, even though he’ll probably knock me out for saying that. But it just goes to prove how important your foot is – you do everything with it, especially when you play sport.
“You have good days and you have bad days but that’s the nature of the injury I’ve got. I think I’ve been ready to play 80 for a while, but I haven’t had the match experience. I’ve really enjoyed the role of coming off the bench.
“It’s always hard because you’re coming into a very intense game, but you know you can go, pardon the expression, ‘balls to wall’ throughout that period of time and have no problems.”