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'Fascinating' Skivington view ahead of his first Borthwick meeting

By Liam Heagney
GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Gloucester's Head Coach George Skivington during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Gloucester Rugby and Bristol Bears at Kingsholm Stadium on October 15, 2022 in Gloucester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Gloucester boss George Skivington is hoping that his first meeting this week with Steve Borthwick as the England coach can enhance the chances of his Kingsholm club getting a more generous representation in the upcoming Guinness Six Nations Test squad announcement.

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The new England boss is currently doing the rounds in the Gallagher Premiership ahead of a tournament that will kick off with the February 4 home game versus Scotland and Skivington was optimistic that his late Tuesday afternoon meeting with Borthwick will be a first stepping stone towards potentially increasing the number of Gloucester players involved.

While seasoned winger Jonny May was a regular pick under previous England coach Eddie Jones, the inclusion of the likes of club skipper Lewis Ludlow, Mark Atkinson, Jack Singleton and so on was fleeting in recent years. Skivington, though, wants that fringe pattern to now change.

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“I’m seeing him [Borthwick] in about an hour actually so I will have a better take on where everything stands,” explained Skivington at his Tuesday afternoon media briefing ahead of this Friday’s Gloucester game at home to league leaders Saracens in the Gallagher Premiership.

“Obviously we have George (McGuigan, the new Gloucester signing from Newcastle) and Jonny in the mix at the moment but there is no doubt there are a few other lads they want to talk about who are sitting on the periphery, so I am interested to see who is on his radar. Ruan (Ackermann) has been consistently good for a long period now.

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“It is very much going to come down to how Steve wants to play, what he sees. I’m not saying he is going to share all that with me but usually international coaches don’t mind telling you, ‘Look, if he works on this and if he works on that, that will fit my mould a bit better’. So I think that is going to be fascinating to see where Steve wants to take it and who in our establishment will be given some work ons and we will try and push on as many people as we can. Fingers crossed. I’m sure there is plenty of lads on the radar. Like I say, I’ll find out in an hour.”

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Did Gloucester get a fair crack at the England selection in recent times with Jones in charge? “I thought that last year we had some players playing extremely well who probably deserved to at least have a crack,” reckoned Skivington.

“It was good to see Val (Rapava-Ruskin) get acknowledged this year already. Like I said, Val and Ruan at the end of last year were on form and playing very, very well. Mid-season probably building into the last Six Nations certainly. Fred (Clarke), Lewis, Jack, there are a few boys around there who could have been given a little more than they were.

“But I’m also a head coach as well and I’m fully aware that my decisions will not always be agreeable to everybody else, so you make your decisions dictated on how you want to play, do the personalities gel? There is so much that goes into it that it is always very easy to sit and think you have got the answers.

“It’s also the dynamic of persons in the background, who drives the team. Sometimes that is more important. He might be ten per cent better on the pitch but if he is 50 per cent better off the pitch and you have got a group who need that in there at that moment in time, quite often that is why I think selection can look a bit odd from the outside. But it is certainly going to be fascinating to see what direction Steve goes in.”

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