James Haskell may be one of England rugby’s most recognisable stars, but he’s revealed his professional career could have been very different if he’d chosen to play for Wales instead.
The Northampton Saints back-rower made the unexpected admission that, due to being half Welsh, he could have played for Wales – or Ireland!
The 33-year-old flanker told BBC Radio Wales: “I’m actually half Welsh, and I’m fully Welsh qualified, so I could have quite happily played for Wales.
“I doubt I would have got into the team, before any of your listeners tweet me.
“But I love the Welsh, and I’ve got some good Welsh friends.”
Speaking to Eleri Sion on Wednesday while promoting his new cook book – Cooking for Fitness – Haskell explained: “My mother’s Welsh, we were kind of all from Cross Hands and Upper Tumble.
“I’m actually qualified to play for Ireland as well, so I’m a bit of a mix of everything.”
With the Six Nations just around the corner, 77-times England capped Haskell weighed in on situation which will see Leigh Halfpenny miss the start of the tournament amid concussion worries following a head knock during Wales v Australia in November.
“I think it is worrying”, Haskell said. “Once you’re in the cycle of being a sports person or a rugby player, you’re kind of very selfish and focused on yourself.
“You probably don’t focus on what you’re doing to your body enough and you don’t really appreciate it.
“I think there are a number of players in the league who are now having more concussion issues, and actually they’re not just lasting one game, they’re carrying on.
“It seems now every single game there’s two or three of these things. Everybody’s as big as each other, the backs are as big as the forwards, it’s a very physical game.”
With Haskell himself missing the opening stages of the Six Nations last year – due to a ban after his high tackle on Jamie Roberts some weeks earlier – he looked back on that “unfortunate” incident.
“It was a sad day, actually, because I really like Doctor Jamie.
“I ran up so fast, I thought this is going to be the best tackle I’m ever going to do, and I just didn’t drop my height. I think old age and the inability to bend at the hips, I caught him wrong.
“And to be honest with you, it’s not that hard to hit him in the jaw because it is the size of a small table. I did think they were going to give me a bit of mitigating circumstances but unfortunately, I caught him.
“I’ve always played tough, but I would never play to hurt someone, you’d have to be a complete idiot to want to hurt someone or get yourself red carded. I served my punishment, but it was a big shame.”
The former Wasps player – who admitted making it to the World Cup with England in Japan would be an incredible way to finish his career – added: “I love Wales, I love the Welsh rugby ream. I just hope we get a win this time, but may the best team win.”