James Haskell hits out at England ‘disrespect’ before South Africa semi-final

Chessum previews England's World Cup semi-final with South Africa

James Haskell has hit out at what he believes has been ‘disrespectful’ coverage of England’s Rugby World Cup campaign. Steve Borthwick’s side have reached the semi-final but have been widely tipped to lose to South Africa in the last four. 

England avoided a nerve-jangling comeback from Fiji in the quarter-final on Sunday. The Pacific Islanders were 24-10 down but managed to level the scores with 12 minutes remaining. Owen Farrell’s heroics just about saw the Red Rose through. 

South Africa await in the semi-final. They were England’s nemesis in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final and pose a tough challenge after a narrow 29-28 win over France in their quarter-final. 

But speaking on the The Good, The Bad and The Rugby Podcast, former England star Haskell insists that not giving Borthwick’s side a chance is ‘disrespectful’. He pointed out that England have worked hard and navigated their World Cup campaign successfully. 

Responding to Mike Tindall suggesting that South Africa only had one tough game in 2019, Haskell said: “That’s true, actually. That’s all they did. They didn’t play any decent rugby until they got to that last game. 

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“I think it’s very disrespectful to this England side not to give them a chance. I think there are some unbelievable players, some fantastic coaches, some guys who work very hard and, actually, they’ve got on with their business.

“We’re in a semi-final, what has gone on before is irrelevant.”

It came after Tindall insisted that South Africa’s only top-quality performance in their triumphant 2019 World Cup run came in the final against England. The Springboks smashed England 32-12 in the final, having only edged past Wales in the last four. 

A relatively easy route to the 2019 showdown saw them lose a pool stage clash with New Zealand before comfortably beating Namibia, Italy, Canada and Japan. Tindall used that run to point out that England can have their one excellent performance of the tournament against South Africa. 

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“The biggest factor in this is that you’re now in semi-final rugby, and what that does for the pressure levels,” he said.

“It’s knockout rugby, it’s the only time you can believe because you have to. It’s not like playing an autumn series. There’s only one game, it’s 80 minutes, and it only takes a few decisions (to go your way).

“They (England) will go a bit siege mentality, but it comes down to their intent. South Africa had their one game (in 2019), why can’t we have our one game in this semi-final?”

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