Wasps have announced that England's James Haskell has extended his contract with the club and will be captain this season.
Wasps have announced that England international James Haskell has extended his contract with the club and will be captain this season.
The back-row who has won 51 caps for his country, progressed quickly from Wasps Academy to the senior side, becoming the youngest Wasp in the Premiership when he made his debut in 2002 at the age of 18.
During his first seven seasons with Wasps, Haskell won the Heineken Cup and the Premiership, before enjoying spells in France, Japan and New Zealand. He returned to the club two seasons ago and has amassed 132 appearances in black and gold.
The irrepressible back row, whose energy is infectious on and off the field, said: “I'm really pleased to have extended my contract with Wasps and am honoured to have been asked to captain the club.
“Wasps is so much a part of my life, having played here for nine seasons in total. I have a lot to thank the club's coaches and support staff for, in helping me to get back into the England set up last season.
“I grew up supporting Wasps, which a lot of people don't realise. I have been a boyhood fan since I was 12. I had the privilege of learning from icons of the game here, like Lawrence Dallaglio, Joe Worsley and Paul Volley, and it is a huge privilege to now be in a position to lead the club.
“The squad is the most competitive it has been in years, with a number of internationals arriving, as well as exciting young lads who are keen to make an impact.
“We are back at the top table of Europe after last season's win in Paris and we are benefiting from financial stability off the field. It really feels like Wasps is back and ready to achieve what we all know this team can.
“As a squad, we are under no illusion about the hard work we need to put in to continue our climb up the table. The competition in modern rugby is so strong that there are no longer any easy games, but the top six remains our focus and I believe our squad has the ability and hunger to really be able to compete against the best teams in Europe.
“You saw the character and commitment of our guys against the stellar squad of Stade FranÒ«ais. The work ethic, combined with a lot of talent and excellent coaching, should make us really competitive this season. The squad is full of potential, we just need to gel quickly to fulfil it.
“Belly [Chris Bell] did an absolutely fantastic job leading the squad last season and we will work closely together again this season. All the boys listen to him and he will continue to play a vital leadership role within the squad. We are all looking forward to the new season getting underway and putting in performances players, coaches and supporters can be proud of.”
Director of Rugby, Dai Young, appreciates the significance of Haskell signing a new contract: “I am delighted that James has decided to extend his contract. It is an indication of the positive direction the club is moving in that players of his calibre and international experience are keen be a part of what we're working hard to build.
“I was really impressed with James' performances last year. The first season he returned to the club will have been frustrating for him as he had to carefully manage his return from a knee injury, but I thought last season he was absolutely outstanding. He was back on top of his game and performing consistently at the highest level.
“He has also demonstrated how much of a team player he is, and he is a good role model around the club and on the pitch. James shows real leadership qualities within the squad and we believe he will be an excellent captain.
“James has big shoes to fill after Chris Bell did an excellent job for us both on and off the field, capped by leading the team to back-to-back wins over Stade FranÒ«ais for a place in the European Champions Cup.
“Chris' professionalism and approach make him a perfect role model for other players and particularly young players to follow, and we are keen to retain the leadership role he plays within the squad.
“This season we have appointed two vice captains to form a leadership group and support the captain. Matt Mullan will join Chris Bell in these roles. They are both hugely respected by the players and coaches.
“We know we will miss Haskell's presence for chunks of the season as we expect his performances to put him in line for an England starting spot. However, we believe we have strong leaders within the squad, as well as hugely talented back row options to select from. The back row is one of the most competitive areas at the club and it will be exciting to see how combinations develop this season.
“We are all looking forward to the next friendly against Connacht Rugby at Adams Park on Saturday, and then Saracens at the London Double Header on 6 September.”