Haskell aims for Robshaw's shirt

James Haskell is determined to win a starting berth for England
James Haskell is determined to win a starting berth for England

James Haskell has targeted Chris Robshaw's England place after welcoming the chance to play his way into Stuart Lancaster's autumn plans.

An agreement has been reached with the Aviva Premiership clubs for Lancaster to delay naming his squad for the QBE Series against New Zealand, South Africa, Samoa and Australia until October 22.

Moved from its original date in July, the change enables England's head coach to select players on form while offering a series of intriguing sub-plots to the early rounds of league combat.

Robshaw has been involved in two early season duels with Will Fraser of Saracens and Haskell himself, who performed well in Wasps' defeat at Harlequins on Saturday.

"I'm good friends with Chris, I've known him for years and I have the utmost respect for him. He's been a fantastic captain and is a great player," Haskell said.

"But I want his shirt, it's as simple as that. I want Tom Wood's shirt and any of those in the back row. People like Will Fraser are coming up on the outside as well.

"So of course when you play these guys you want to win the game and win the individual battle.

"I wasn't disappointed at all with the way I played against Harlequins on Saturday.

"Putting back the squad announcement has been great, it's really opened up the competition for everyone.

"It means players are picked on form. The England shirt is never yours and it's a level playing field."

Haskell has filled all three back row positions in a nomadic cub career that has included spells in France, Japan and New Zealand, but identifies openside as his preferred post.

The 29-year-old believes he can offer the turnover threat missing from England's established loose trio of Robshaw, Tom Wood and Billy Vunipola and insists you do not need a low centre of gravity to be an effective poacher.

"My favourite position over the last three or four years has been at seven, it's where I've played most of my rugby," he said.

"The people I respect in the game play in that position. In terms of turnovers and impact I'm consistently up there in the Premiership. I fulfill a role there.

"The perception people have of an openside is of a squat guy getting over the ball, but size is irrelevant really.

"If you have someone who has the skill set to do the job, gets around the park and has high involvement, that's what it's about.

"It's the balance of the back row that's most important, it doesn't matter what number you're wearing.

"I just don't buy into this squat thing....(Australia openside) Michael Hooper is an example of someone like that, but he hits like he's bigger than he is and carries like he's bigger than he is, but just happens to be that size.

"But if England say we'll play you at six, I won't be precious about it."