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The Skivington message for England A fans after eight-year absence

By Liam Heagney
England A head coach George Skivington (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

George Skivington has issued a message to England A supporters ahead of their first fixture at that level in eight years. Not since the 2016 Saxons tour to South Africa have the English fielded a team at that level beneath their Test side.


The pandemic played spoilsport on the morning of its original intended return, with positive virus tests resulting in the cancellation of a June 2021 match versus Scotland A at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

Three years down the track, however, all is ready for England A ahead of Sunday’s clash in Leicester with Portugal, the recent Rugby World Cup surprise packet.

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What can fans expect from an England team that only came together for the first time at Loughborough University on Tuesday and had the likes of skipper Charlie Ewels miss that day’s training as they hadn’t yet been released from Steve Borthwick’s senior squad at Pennyhill?

“My message is that it’s going to be really exciting,” reckoned head coach Skivington when asked by RugbyPass to set the scene for a match that will be streamed live on England rugby’s YouTube and Facebook channels.

“Some of the talent and the individual skills within this squad are unbelievable. We’re not going to be perfect, that’s for sure, but with it not being perfect you are going to see some young lads do some really good stuff and you are going to see them get tested with making a few errors and how they recover.

“Portugal are a good team and they will have moments within this game and they will bring an exciting brand of rugby but to see the future of English talent a good few years ahead before they become first team if you like is a really exciting prospect.


“It used to be a really strong programme, as we all know, and those games were great to be a part of. The boys are buzzing and I have no doubt they will put on a good display.”

The 41-year-old Skivington knows from first-hand experience as a player how useful A-level international rugby can be. He didn’t go on and become an England Test player, but numerous teammates made that step before the grade was shelved following the two-game trip to South Africa in 2016.

“I was an aspiring (player) trying to get into the first team, but I was also playing good club rugby. Minimum it [A level] gives an opportunity to challenge yourself in a different environment. Same as this week, you go somewhere different, different group, different coaches.

“See if you can take your leadership skills and your lineout, whatever it is that is your area, and see if you can take it somewhere else, lead a different group and win in a different environment under a different pressure in a quicker timescale.


“We probably had a little bit more time back in those days because it was a proper programme over the summer or during the Six Nations, but the same principle – get out of your comfort zone, spend time with different people, sit with different people, enjoy the privilege of being a professional rugby player and the opportunity to go somewhere different, try something different knowing that you will be going back to your club at some point. I loved it, it was a great experience.”

RFU performance director Conor O’Shea last week spoke about his plans to annually schedule three to four A-level games. Having gotten a taste of international coaching this week, would regularly coaching England A be something of interest to Skivington, the Gloucester boss?


“I have loved this week. All the staff have come in from different places and our challenge is getting as aligned as much as the players do but I think we have had a really good week. It has been really enjoyable.

“We have worked hard, we have spent some quality time together and we will all have learned from each other no doubt. Look, what happens going forward I don’t know but I will always be privileged to do anything with the English rose on it and I’d welcome any challenge like that along the way.”


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