HE may have retired from international rugby, but England legend James Haskell still has an athlete’s mindset – in the bedroom, that is.
The 6ft 3 former flanker, married to Chloe Madeley, says he “approaches sex like a competitive sport”.
“I end up taking everything very seriously. But I mean you want to be good at sex don’t you? I'm not sure I'm very good at it, but I'm having a good go at trying to be better," James tells The Sun.
"There's a lot of people out there having a lot of bad sex. I want to improve on it."
Former Wasps star James, who wed Richard and Judy’s personal trainer daughter in 2018, writes in new book Ruck Me: “If you're lucky enough to see some progress in your performance and get some good reviews, why would you not carry on improving?”
The book, a follow-up to his 2020 memoir What A Flanker, is – in James’ own words – a candid exploration of why “people think he’s a d**khead (even his wife)”.
Along the way, he shares eye-popping anecdotes which reflect why he’s been called a “stag do in human form” – from kissing men on wild nights out in Paris to how he deliberately drugged his teammate on a Lions tour in 2017.
Censored social media posts
He also opens up about his relationship with 34-year-old Chloe, who even pens some of the book herself.
James, 36, says: “Chloe says in the book I'm dead inside because I didn't cry on our wedding day. And she cried the house down.
“She always says I'm emotionally dead and calls me rugby's answer to Donald Trump. Why? Because I’ve got too much to say about all the wrong things.”
James certainly has a filter-free approach to life – and is refreshingly unafraid to speak his mind.
It’s that attitude that sees him frequently get into social media spats, and he admits in the book that he enjoys “outraging” the people who don’t get his humour. And he’s not going to let cancel culture get in the way of his fun.
“Is cancel culture scary?" he sighs. "Of course it is. But I don't have overly aggressive opinions.
“I woke up this morning and Instagram threatened to delete my account for harassment and bullying – for using the word b**** in a post. It’s like f*** sake, guys. That happens all the time.
“I could post a picture of a cat online now and I would get s**t from dog lovers or accused of being racist to rabbits or whatever the hell it would be. Everyone gets so upset."
'Zero regrets' over drugging teammate
It remains to be seen what his social media critics will make of his revelation in the book that he drugged an unnamed Lions teammate on a flight home from New Zealand – something James says he has “zero regrets” over.
“I gave a guy two sleeping pills because he was acting like a f***ing clown," he explains. "And he doesn't know that I did it.
"But I basically saved the day because he wouldn't stop. We all know those people that have four or five pints and turn into a total nightmare. Life's littered with them.
"I made the decision to do that and I stand by it. I wouldn't advocate doing it to your mates. But it was the right thing to do to stop any carnage and it also made one hell of a story.”
James’ love of a good story has led him to get up to all sorts of questionable behaviour – from pranking former Special Forces soldiers to egging a woman’s car when she nicked his parking space.
His outrageous antics lead to more than a few eye-rolls from wife Chloe, but James insists that their marriage works because they are so different.
“We have a very open relationship," he says. "But we are very different as people. My wife is incredibly emotional, incredibly compassionate. She thinks about things a lot, whereas I'm very much in the moment.”
Fears honeytraps & scandals
But while he may come across as a burly man-mountain with controversial opinions, when it comes to Chloe he’s a big softie.
“Chloe is amazing to me," he gushes. "I'm a much, much, much better person for being with her. She protects me from myself.
"She understands things and sees stuff in a different way and I think that's important because of all of our own personal experiences with the media and having the family that she has.
"Chloe's brilliant and intelligent, much more than I am.”
James, who boasts in his book that "I pride myself on my oral sex performance”, has become savvy at protecting his marriage while living in the public eye.
“I've had enough scandals in my life to know exactly what happens. I don't trust many people. If it's too good to be true, it is always good to be true," he admits.
On avoiding honey traps, he says: “I'm not good-looking enough to ever warrant attention from scantily clad women, it's all a trap. Everyone wants to catch you out. And I learned that pretty early on
“Why would a beautiful woman hop in a hot tub and suddenly want to talk to me, it doesn't add up. Now I'm married, if any woman comes near me I run in the opposite direction – fast.”
‘People assumed James was an entitled, arrogant t**t,’ says wife Chloe Madeley
JAMES is a walking, talking contradiction.
He is so intelligent and so self-aware in some respects, but he doesn’t seem to know where the boundaries lie. But that’s hardly surprising. His parents were strict when he was growing up, he went to an all-boys’ boarding school, he joined Wasps when he was still at Wellington College. All his life, he’s been subject to the discipline of parents, teachers and coaches.
But he’s also been immersed in a very masculine, laddish environment. I reckon that must have messed with his perception of what is socially acceptable in the grand scheme of things. I’m always saying to James, “You guys literally bully each other. Things you wouldn’t say to your worst enemy, you’ll say while everyone is laughing and clapping.” But to them, it’s completely normal.
James is a grown man, but if that’s the environment you’ve been in for your whole life, it’s very difficult to suddenly snap out of it. Now he doesn’t have parents, teachers or coaches around, James needs someone else to keep him in check. Namely me.
When I started seeing James, I found it very upsetting that all these people thought he was an idiot. I knew it happened to famous people, because I’d been around celebrity all my life, being the daughter of Richard and Judy. But it was difficult to take when it was the man I loved. People assumed James was an entitled, arrogant t**t.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand why James might not be some people’s cup of tea. He can be very outspoken and loves the fact he’s in great shape. When you’re always taking selfies with your shirt off, you’re going to rub people up the wrong way.
But he gave absolutely everything when it came to his rugby, put everything on the line and messed up his body year after year. He had so much integrity as a rugby player, emptied himself every time he walked onto a pitch. He’s also funny, intelligent and articulate, and although 80 per cent of the time I think James is dead inside, he’ll suddenly do something romantic that will completely blow my socks off.
That’s all that should matter, not his social media persona.
Wife's 'porn double-standards'
Like all married couples James and Chloe have had their ups and downs. They almost broke up early on when Chloe found out he was following a string of porn stars on social media. But he calls it double standards.
“There's a certain amount of hypocrisy in relationships," he says. "Like when Chloe joked about me following porn stars on Instagram.
"Then I look at her page and it's all naked men. She said they're big in the fitness industry and I said mine are big in the porn industry. It doesn't wash but you know, we have a lot of fun.”
He says things can get heated in the Haskell household. But usually, this involves him shouting at inanimate objects or his laptop screen.
He explains: "I'm so much angrier since retiring from rugby. I recently smashed up a Sky box. I’d just returned from walking the dog, my back was sore, I needed a wee and I found myself getting increasingly angry.
"I told that Skybox 40 times to work, and it wouldn’t. And I had to smash up because it's p**sing me off. I started hammering this box with my fists and then smashed it on the floor until it turned into dust.”
But the Incredible Hulk he is not.
“When you're physically not able to train as much as you want to and you’re in pain and the world's going mad with some idiots online telling you, you're a d**khead. Oh, my God.
"That stuff just makes me so annoyed. Social media is a massive trigger. I think what upsets me is stupid people not knowing they're stupid. I forget that sometimes.”
Even his wife teases him now that he's not in training. “Chloe often pats me on the belly and calls me fat,” he grimaces.
Acting plans, fatherhood fears & pranks
But he keeps busy DJing “a dream come true” and has set his sights on acting. He says: “I'm a workaholic. I don't want to be defined by rugby.
"I've always joked about being a frustrated actor, because, if Vinnie Jones and The Rock can do it, I'm pretty sure I can.”
Now he’s in his mid-thirties, there’s another role that might be round the corner for James – that of being a dad.
He is adamant that Chloe would make an "amazing mum”, but adds that they’re not quite ready yet.
“Do I think I'd be a great dad?" he says. "I'd like to think so. Would I make mistakes? Yes, probably.
“I'd be nervous about bringing kids into the world these days. But would I like a miniature me running around saying ‘Daddy I love you’ and having a laugh with Christmas and things? Yeah, I think that would be amazing.”
In the meantime, however, James and Chloe are happy being big kids themselves.
The pair love playing pranks on each other – with Chloe finding ingenious ways to scare James around the house.
But he’s pretty inventive when it comes to getting his own back.
“In the first lockdown I found a smoke grenade and rolled it into the gym while she was working out," he grins.
"The room filled with smoke and she thought everything was on fire. I heard a scream and she came running out in a panic. She was like ‘you're such an idiot.’ Hilarious.”
Ruck Me: (I’ve Written Another Book) by James Haskell, published by HarperCollins, is out now
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