WHEN Wasps captain James Haskell first broke into the squad he joined a back row unit as combative and competitive as any in the land.
The totemic Lawrence Dallaglio was the figurehead at number eight, England teammate Joe Worsley felled anything that moved while the disruptive talents of Paul Volley and Jonny O’Connor were much under-rated.
With Haskell, Tom Rees and John Hart backing them up, it was a department where Wasps set the benchmark.
Haskell has been to the end of the world and back since then, but the 29-year-old is now part of a back row division at Wasps to rival that of yesteryear.
Alongside him are Nathan Hughes and Ashley Johnson, while considerable strength in depth comes from the likes of Sam Jones, Guy Thompson, Ed Jackson, Thomas Young and Buster Lawrence.
Haskell said: “The back rows look very different with myself, Ashley and Nathan compared to Joe Worsley, Lawrence Dallaglio and Paul Volley or Jonny O’Connor.
“Each one had their key roles back then. Joe was the tackler, Paul was the tackler and fetcher and Lawrence was the big ball carrier.
“There are no speciality players now in modern back rows. Everyone has to have a certain level of ability.
“There are things that guys do better, but it’s across the board now and the days of having an out and out seven have gone.
“We’re more equal in abilities but we each compliment each other and I think the balance is still there.
“I think we’ve got more options now too.
“Back then we had John Hart, Tom Rees and myself following in the wings but now we’ve got Thomas Young, who has been fantastic in pre-season, Buster is a machine, Ed Jackson is a fantastic player who will take his opportunity when he gets it and Guy Thompson plays in multiple positions, like a lot of boys.
“Back row wise, we’re very lucky at this club.”