'I thought the door was closed': Will Skelton opens up on Wallabies comeback
Will Skelton thought he may have missed the chance to return to the Wallabies fold when he turned down an offer to represent Australia last year.
But with Rugby Australia loosening their eligibility rules, the giant second-rower hopes to make up for lost time when the Wallabies take on Scotland on Monday (1.15am AEDT).
Australia will have Skelton at their disposal for the first time since 2016 when he departed Super Rugby for the lure of the pound and the euro.
Since moving overseas, the 29-year-old has blossomed into one of the most devastating locks in the European game with Saracens and French outfit La Rochelle.
But while his form in Europe has been spectacular, RA’s rigid eligibility rules seemed to be a constant roadblock in allowing him to add to his 18 caps.
“Probably not,” he responded, when asked if he thought a recall would ever eventuate.
“Not until they changed the rule. But it’s nice to be back involved.”
While Skelton is a beneficiary of a more relaxed approach to selection, the withdrawal of Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon to focus on club rugby in Japan shows there is still some refinement needed to the policy.
There had been previous attempts to bring Skelton back into the fold before this tour, where the Wallabies face Scotland, England and then Wales, but the timing wasn’t right.
“I spoke to (RA director of rugby) Scotty Johnson last year with the shortened version of the Rugby Championship (on),” he said.
“He asked me to come then and it didn’t work out because my wife was pregnant and I didn’t want to leave her.
“I thought the door was closed. Then Rens (Wallabies coach Dave Rennie) gave me a phone call in the middle of the year.
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“He said ‘if you’d like to be involved, we’ll be looking at you. Keep playing good footy and you might be involved with the team’. So I put my head down and I’m here now.”
Skelton is not alone in forming a growing overseas Wallabies contingent with Kurtley Beale, Rory Arnold and Tolu Latu also included in a squad bolstered this week by the addition of Lyon flanker Colby Fainga’a and Toulon centre Duncan Paia’aua.
But even with just a short period to acquaint himself with the rest of the squad and their set-piece calls, the 203cm lock is confident he can feature in Sunday’s test at Murrayfield as Australia look to make it six wins on the bounce.
“We went through a bit of detail last night,” Skelton said.
“The shape is quite simple and it’s something as a rugby player you’ve got to get used to quickly.
“I’m not sure. We’ll have to see what Rens is thinking but we’ll definitely be putting our hand up because we’re not just here to train for three weeks.”
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