Now retired England and British and Irish Lions flanker is never short of a few words as it is but ask him about the jerseys he wore with pride and he positively waxes lyrical.

One of the game’s most colourful characters has played rugby all around the world – in club rugby in England, Japan, New Zealand and France and, of course, as an international.

No matter how many caps you win – and Haskell won 77, they always say the first is the most special, and while the gregarious former Wasps man is never afraid to be different, on this occasion he stays on script.

But the way he describes his relationship with that first-ever England jersey is definitely unique.

“The first shirt I ever wore is framed at my parents’ house in the downstairs bathroom. So when people are relieving themselves they can look at that which is odd and nice!” he said.

Feeling the noise

Wales won that game 27-18, and while James Hook captured most of the headlines for his 22-point contribution for the home team, it was the support they got that blew Haskell away.

“My debut was in 2007 in the Six Nations against Wales away, at the Millennium Stadium, as it was called then,” he recalled.

“I could not stop smiling. I even did the cheeky wink to the camera when they came past which somehow I managed to get away with; social media wasn’t really a thing.

“What a place to go to and make your debut, in the fire of Wales.

“They stupidly let them close the roof so the volume was like nothing I’ve never heard.

“We were five points behind and three metres from their line, and it was like a force pressing on your head; you couldn’t concentrate, you couldn’t focus and they became like a 16th man.

“Rule number one – never let the Welsh have the roof closed!”

Enemies become friends

Haskell enjoyed special days playing alongside his heroes in the black of Wasps and Northampton, his last club before he had to retire, has a special place in his heart, too.

But, when pressed, the Lions jersey he wore in 2017 is his most prized possession.

“I bet you thought you’d never see me pick one of these up, and neither did I,” he said holding the famous red jersey up to the camera, he said:

“I will never regard myself as a proper Lion because I didn’t play a test game but I did play four times for them in midweek games and gave everything I possibly ever could, and it was the best tour I ever went on.

“When you spend all your life beating up other players from other countries and they’re trying to beat you up, you don’t really get a chance to bond with them. It is not like the old days.

“So it was nice to spend 12 weeks with a set of players, which you would never have normally done, going for coffees, and finding out about players who you definitely thought you were going to hate, and who you definitely thought were going to hate me.

“But I made some friends for life and still speak to them now. It was incredible, such an honour. This is one of the greatest shirts you could ever have. For me to wear it was mind-boggling.”

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