Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks are beatable - Haskell

England loose forward James Haskell says his season playing for the Highlanders proved to him that the All Blacks are beatable.

Haskell, a re-called member of the England squad preparing to arrive in Auckland on Thursday, has fond memories of his time in the deep south. He said he still keeps in touch with coach Jamie Joseph and would like to return for another season.

However, he is particularly excited about testing himself against the All Blacks with a newfound confidence after playing among them.

To beat them you have to be at your very best.
James Haskell

"I, like every other player, have a huge respect for the All Blacks," he said. "They do have the aura that everyone talks about. Having been there and played I discovered that Kiwi rugby players are human. They do make mistakes like everyone else.

"Not buying into it, not being fooled by the magic of the All Blacks, is probably the key."

He added: "You can respect them for being the team they are and [they are] outstanding rugby players. To beat them you have to be at your very best."

Wasps player Haskell, back in the fold after being selected by coach Stuart Lancaster, said he was looking forward to returning to a country which has rugby as its No1 sport. The second test will be under Dunedin's roof.

"I'm very excited to be able to be back in the mix and to fight it out with the guys, learn from these coaches and go to the homeland of rugby. I obviously lived there for a period of time.

"Rugby is a very different thing over there than it is here. People live and breathe it, kids want to play for the All Blacks, they don't want to be football players; over here they want to be a footballer.

"Some people have written us off already but it's just great to go out there to New Zealand and make life as difficult as we possibly can and challenge yourself. If you've got any aspirations to discover what you're like as a player, playing against the best team in the world in their backyard, it doesn't get better than that.

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"The Highlanders were fantastic from start to finish. I still speak to Jamie Joseph, he's one of the best coaches I've worked with. Going back there is going to be great. I wish every stadium had a roof on it so we never had to play in the rain. It's going to capture the noise, it's going to be a sellout, and it's going to be massive."

Lancaster has named an initial squad of 30, with another group to be travel after the Premiership final between Saracens and Northampton Saints and the England XV v Barbarians match at Twickenham this weekend.

England squad: Loose-head props - Joe Marler (Harlequins), Matt Mullan (London Wasps). Tight-head props - Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons), Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks), David Wilson (Bath Rugby). Hookers - Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), Joe Gray (Harlequins), Dave Ward (Harlequins), Rob Webber (Bath Rugby). Locks - Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby), Joe Launchbury (London Wasps), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers), Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers). Loose forwards- James Haskell (London Wasps), Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs), Matt Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby), Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins). Halfbacks - Danny Care (Harlequins), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers). Fly halves - Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby), Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks). Midfielders - Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby), Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), Henry Trinder (Gloucester Rugby), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby). Outside backs - Mike Brown (Harlequins), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), Chris Pennell (Worcester Warriors), Marland Yarde (London Irish).

- APNZ

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