AS one of the country’s best-known rugby players, you might expect James Haskell to be energetic. But, he admits, he is way more than that.

“I can’t stand still,” he laughs... “I’m a workaholic!”

A formidable force on the field, having played 77 times for his country and for the British and Irish Lions, his engaging personality has also made him a force to be reckoned with off the pitch, with a successful career as a presenter, DJ and podcaster.

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And it is his smash podcast, The Good, The Bad & The Rugby, which has now taken him on tour for a show unmissable to fans of the sport and those who just love great stories and a laugh. It sees James teaming up with fellow England hero Mike Tindall and former Sky Sports rugby presenter Alex Payne – Alex presenting himself as ‘the Good’, James ‘the Bad’ and Mike, of course, as ‘the Rugby’.

Launched among the lockdowns and restrictions of 2020, the podcast has grown to become the country’s top sporting podcast, with more than three million listeners and more than 20million viewers online. But the tour, which reaches Oxford’s New Theatre on Sunday, is the first chance fans have had to see it in real life. And, he insists, you don’t even have to like rugby to enjoy it.

Oxford Mail: Gloucester rugby star Mike Tindall announces live podcast tour

“For us, it’s a rugby podcast that doesn’t talk about rugby,” says James.

“It’s about the people and the stories behind the scenes and the worlds we live in. We are giving people a look at worlds they wouldn’t have seen before, and we are at the heart of that as people who enjoy what they are doing and sharing the personalities of it all.

“The whole idea is that it’s entertainment, stories, details, previously unheard anecdotes and humour.”

“Although it has rugby at the core, it’s not necessarily a podcast for people who love rugby.”

So how did it come about?

“I knew Mike from our England days, and we both knew Alex through his work with Sky,” says James, a flanker, who has collected 77 international caps, played for Wasps and Northampton Saints in the UK, Stade Francais in France, Ricoh Black Rams in Japan and Highlanders in New Zealand, during a 16-year professional career before retiring in 2019.

Oxford Mail: James Haskell

James Haskell

“We came together to work on Joe Media’s House of Rugby podcast,” he goes on. “Our chemistry just worked really well, so we took it from there for the new podcast.”

Non-rugger lovers may know him from I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here and from appearances on The Chase, A League Of Their Own and A Question Of Sport.

As well as The Good, The Bad & The Rugby, James has a number of other podcasts including Backrow Radio, What A Flanker and Couples Quarantine, with his wife Chloe Madeley, daughter of daytime TV icons Richard and Judy.

A Sunday Times best-selling author for his smash hit autobiography What A Flanker and follow up Ruck Me, he has also published bestselling fitness and nutrition books Perfect Fit, Cooking For Fitness and Rugby Fit.

But it was The Good, The Bad & The Rugby which rocketed him an off-field star. So how did it all begin?

“We started it because we wanted to share something with people,” he says. “We went ahead despite all the challenges of lockdowns and Covid-19 as a way of showing that the world would go on.

Oxford Mail: The Good the Bad and the Rugby - Mike Tindall

Mike Tindall

“When we started, the overarching feedback was that we were helping detract from the horrible things and sadness going on, and we were helping people’s mental health. We harnessed that and went with it.

“Podcasts had been popular for a while before lockdown.

“Before Covid, people would listen to podcasts on the commute, then that stopped and they’ve become a more general mainstream entertainment – people listened to them more, but also more people were actually doing them and making their own.

“A lot of people have podcasts now and use them as a way to express themselves. In lockdown it seemed a lot of people either wanted to just watch TV or they became creative.

“For us, we do something very different [to most podcasts] as it’s visual. It’s live, it’s entertainment, it’s so much more than a podcast.

“When it came to series two, I refused to do any more Zooms, I hated it and wanted to be with people, live. I’m a natural giant show off and performer and that was important for me.

“We got back into the studio and back to what we wanted to do with The Good, The Bad & The Rugby. We had missed each other. It was great online but it’s really gone up a notch back in person.”

So, what has been the most memorable moment?

“All the live shows have been pretty special,” he says. “Interacting with the audience while also chatting to our guests is a great thing to do. We’ve got well over 10million downloads and we have an average listener time of an hour and 20 minutes – which is pretty much unheard of – so we’re clearly getting it right.”

He’s clearly at home in the studio, but does he still miss life in the sport?

“I’ll be honest, it’s been really important for me,” he says. “The podcast kept me involved with rugby, without damaging myself anymore. It’s a consistent income, plus a chance to perform, entertain and show off a different side of me and that was important.”

He goes on: “I have other things I do; my fifth book came out at the end of 2021 and I did some live shows with that, and my DJing; it’s all going pretty well. But it’s the podcast that’s changed people’s opinions of me as we’ve shone a light on some important issues within sport – such as men’s mental health, the welfare of players in particular with issues surrounding concussion, and exposing imbalances in the game, as well as the unfair treatment of the Pacific Island nations.

“We’ve been able to get people to come forward and talk about these things, and that’s been a great impact that we’re really proud of.”

He goes on: “It’s exciting to get out and meet fans and to visit places I haven’t been to before, whether they’re the actual tour cities or places we’ll stop off at on the way.

And what can people expect from the live show on Sunday?

“Entertainment, humour, fun and exciting stories never heard before,” he laughs. “And guests to blow them away!”

  • The Good, the Bad and the Rugby – live, is at the New Theatre, Oxford on Sunday, May 22. Tickets from

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