James Haskell believes the upcoming Rugby World Cup will be England’s best chance of victory since they lifted the trophy in 2003.
The former England flanker, who played 77 times for the national side between 2007 and 2018, has admitted he is looking forward to the tournament in Japan.
England were left disappointed to finish as runners-up in the Six Nations earlier this year after being beaten by Wales 21-13 in Cardiff, and were also held to a draw against Scotland in the final game of the tournament.
Despite that, Haskell thinks this England team could repeat the success of 16 years ago.
“I think the World Cup is massively exciting for England,” Haskell said.
“Eddie (Jones) has left no stone unturned in pursuit of making the best team possible. I think they’ve taken training to a new level.
“I’ve had conversations with Eddie and he’s excited. I’m an England fan now and no longer a player and I’m excited to see us go on and win it.”
He added: “For me, it’s the best chance England have had since 2003, I think we’re in the best possible place to go and compete.”
In preparation for the World Cup, Jones’ England have been training in Treviso and the Australian has omitted some big names, including fly-half Danny Cipriani.
Cipriani was named player’s player of the season and player of the season at both the RPA awards and the Premiership Rugby awards but has been left out of the most recent training camp.
On the fly-half, Haskell said: “I always feel for Danny, I think he’s an incredible player. For me he’s probably the best fly-half in England at the moment on the form of last season.
“Obviously Eddie and the coaching staff have their reasons why.
“I think he’s someone that you should always have in the squad, he has that ability to perform, he can do things that the other guy’s can’t.”
England are set to host Wales on Sunday in the first of four warm-up matches before heading to Japan, where their World Cup campaign starts on September 22 when they take on Tonga in Sapporo.
Jamie George has been tapping into the brains behind England’s cricket World Cup triumph as Eddie Jones’ men plot their assault on rugby’s great prize.
George has spoken to Eoin Morgan, England’s one-day captain, who has presided over a remarkable climb to the summit of the game with last month’s victory over New Zealand in the Lord’s final.
England’s rugby team depart for their own World Cup in Japan on September 8 and George can see similarities in the fortunes of the teams.
“I know Eoin Morgan through Saracens and Jason Roy through my mate Sam Billings,” Lions hooker George said.
“You can see the parallels in how they had some pretty disappointing campaigns, some tough losses. Very much like us.
“There aren’t direct parallels in terms of the way the game is played, but in the team culture and the rest of it.
“That’s something Eoin Morgan is very keen on talking about so I have chatted about that with him before.
“He is a very impressive bloke and I have learnt a huge amount from him in terms of what he has done with the England cricket team.
“We have been through very similar challenges. To see them come out the other side and be crowned world champions is fully deserved and I’m very proud of them doing that.”
Cory Hill has welcomed Wales’ demanding Rugby World Cup warm-up programme and predicted they will be “flat-out” Test matches.
Wales play England and Ireland home and away in the next month, starting with a trip to Twickenham next Sunday.
It is a testing schedule which has raised eyebrows in some quarters, and Wales coach Warren Gatland hopes history does not repeat itself with key players lost to injury.
Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb both missed the 2015 World Cup after being injured in the final pre-tournament game four years ago.
“That’s rugby union,” Hill said philosophically. “You’re going to get injuries no matter what games you play.
“You can still pick up knocks if you play nations lower down (the rankings).
“Playing England and Ireland is the biggest challenge we could have before the World Cup.
“They will be flat-out Test matches against teams in the top five in the world. They are local derbies as well, so there’s a little bit more to add to it.
“We certainly won’t be under-cooked going to the World Cup because I’m sure everyone will get game-time in those matches.”
Hill has not played since his try-scoring heroics during the Six Nations victory over England in February.
It was a bittersweet moment for the Dragons lock forward as he badly damaged an ankle in the act of scoring.
“It was a pretty special moment,” said Hill, who captained Wales at the Under-20 World Cup in 2012.
“But it probably lasted for 30 seconds until I realised I’d done the injury.
“You can’t really complain. I’d had a pretty good run before that and you’ve got to deal with it.
“You’ve got to get yourself in the right frame of mind to get back out there and fit again.
“I’m ready to go now after putting it in during pre-season and it would be nice to play England again.”
Thank you for all of your messages of support. Disappointed with how things have turned out, and to miss out on the chance to represent Wales at RWC 2019 - but it wasn’t meant to be. Wishing the rest of the squad every success going forward. See you soon. pic.twitter.com/ffZLJcsQxa— Taulupe Faletau (@taulupe) August 2, 2019
The 27-year-old is almost certain to make Wales’ 31-man World Cup squad in Japan next month.
As well as his strong claims to be skipper Alun-Wyn Jones’ second-row partner, Hill also provides a back-row option at six as Wales seek to build on Grand Slam glory and a 14-game unbeaten streak.
That flexibility could be crucial, especially as British & Irish Lions back-rower Taulupe Faletau was ruled out of the World Cup this week with a collarbone injury.
“I’ll play tight-head if they want me to,” Hill said.
“I played six for the Dragons for four or five games over the Christmas derbies and the European games and I enjoyed my time there.
“It’s another feather to the cap I suppose and if I’m needed to cover six I will do it. But I’m concentrating on lock at the moment.”