Wallabies: Will Skelton eyes impactful return to Test rugby

Dylan Coetzee
Wallabies star Will Skelton during a warm-up for La Rochelle.

Gargantuan second-row Will Skelton is delighted to be back in the Wallabies set-up for their northern hemisphere tour that started with a narrow win against Scotland last weekend.

Skelton joined the camp on Sunday after the dramatic 16-15 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield that was much needed, with the Wallabies boasting a poor win record this year.

Nevertheless, the La Rochelle star was pleased to be back in camp with the Wallabies and says the momentum from the Scotland win has built good energy ahead of a tricky Test against France this weekend.

Momentum for France Test

“It’s always good to be in camp and see what’s the craic,” Skelton told the Herald. “It’s quite similar to last year. It’s always a refreshing environment when I come back here. Obviously, it’s not the results [the Wallabies have wanted] in the last season, but the boys are always positive and ready to rip in.

“[The Scotland result] is massive for the team. You never take any win or game for granted and particularly given we haven’t won in Scotland for a while. The buzz has been pretty good and we’re looking to rip into France.”

Coach Dave Rennie is only allowed three overseas picks in his squad, which saw Skelton miss out on the Wallabies’ series loss to England down under in July.

However, the star revealed he had no issue with that, and the plan was to return to the squad for the northern tour.

“I honestly didn’t mind,” said Skelton. “We had a long season. I spoke to ‘Rens’ after the series and we spoke after the series and about my mission. He just said we were targeting this period for me to be involved. I was happy with that.

“Just to be back involved in camp [last November], I was extremely grateful. To play and put the jersey on again was very special. Obviously, you’re trying to start but I know now the finishers that come off the bench are just as important as the starters. I’ll always try and put my hand up to start but I’ll do the best for the team.

“I start at club level. Being involved in the 23 and add value is my goal here, but I’m not here to just be a passenger. I want to add where I can and I’m really happy to be here.”

France have quality stars

Skelton won the Champions Cup last season with La Rochelle, and he sees some benefit from his local knowledge in France but is conscious of their star-studded squad.

“It is and it isn’t [a benefit]. Any time you play for your country you step up and you play to your strengths. They’ve obviously got some great players… Antoine Dupont is the best player in the world,” he added.

“They’re not short of talent, and they are the best team in the world right now. It’s a massive challenge for us. Rugby in Europe at the moment is massive. You can tell by the top teams being in the top three or four in the world rankings.”

The second-row is targeting a ticket to the World Cup with the Wallabies next year and is open to a return to Australia and Super Rugby in future.

“Right now I’m signed [in France] until 2025. After that, it could be an option,” Skelton said. “For now I’m really concentrating on being here with the Wallabies and then going back to my club and performing.

“But to go to a World Cup would be great. That’s obviously the goal, but you have to perform not only for your club but at Test level.”

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