Former Wallaby Will Skelton was an integral part of La Rochelle’s shock win in the Heineken Cup semi-final, with his bruising carries powering over Leinster’s defence.
Skelton made 11 carries against Leinster for 42 running metres, often smashing past the first man to give La Rochelle consistent gain line carries. The Australian big man tormented the likes of opposite Devin Toner, bashing through Leinster’s ruck defence frequently.
Skelton’s power game was all too familiar for the Irish club, who have fallen to other teams in past European competitions who play a physically dominant style.
— Rugby'O'Top (@rugbyotop) May 4, 2021
The former Wallaby missed out on selection in the 2019 Rugby World Cup while playing for Saracens where he had been based since 2016 after joining on a short-term deal.
Skelton made headlines for his dramatic body transformation after leaving the Waratahs, where he slimmed down his big frame to become a more athletic ball carrier.
He was a part of many successes at Saracens, including two Premiership titles and one European title in 2019. He was named the club’s player of the year in 2018 for his performances.
As part of the salary cap squeeze, Skelton decided to join up with La Rochelle last year as Saracens were regulated to the Championship and is on the verge of winning his second European title with the French club.
Australian fans took notice of Skelton’s dominant display, and began the campaign to have the 29-year-old selected back into the Wallabies squad while abroad. One fan wrote he would make a ‘huge difference’ to the Wallaby team, another implored Dave Rennie to ‘at least have a look’ at the impressive lock.
People will point out to O'Gara being a coaching genius…and maybe he is, but a key man yesterday was Will Skelton (Samoan descent) and 22 stone….that's not rocket science.
— Digger (@Digger_forum) May 3, 2021
If you were Dave Rennie you’d have Will Skelton in your team for the next World Cup even if he stays in France until then. He would make a huge difference to the Wallaby team.
— Mark Evans (@evans_marke) May 2, 2021
Well, that wasn’t worse than Leinster being beaten up by Will Skelton. But it was pretty close. #LineofDutyFinale
— Karl Brophy (@KarlBrophy) May 2, 2021
Will Skelton helps La Rochelle to a first ever European final. 11 runs for 42 metres, a try and nine tackles in semi win over Leinster. Put him on the same plane as the French, Dave, at least for a look?
— Sam Bruce (@Sambruce86) May 3, 2021
Will Skelton though. What a player. Amazing what a career resurgence he's had since leaving Australia. Turning into a real bogey player for Leinster too – part of the pack that tore us apart in the 2019 final.
— Hugo Gordon (@HugoGordon1) May 3, 2021
— Peter O'Reilly (@petersuntimes) May 2, 2021
Australian rugby journalist Christy Doran implored Rugby Australia to bring back both Skelton and Rory Arnold, saying ‘they’ve got to be in Dave Rennie’s plans’ for the next World Cup in France.
Will Skelton, Rory Arnold.
Wallabies need to bring these two back in 2021. They’ve got to be in Dave Rennie’s plans for World Cup even if they don’t return to Australia.
Skelton is the most damaging lock in Europe at the moment. https://t.co/gWf2e2TtBM
— Christy Doran (@ChristypDoran) May 3, 2021
For his damaging displays in European competition, he was shortlisted for European Player of the Year along with teammate Gregory Alldritt and three Toulouse players, Antoine Dupont, Jerome Kaino and Julien Marchand.
With both French clubs making the final, it is no surprise that the shortlist was dominated by the two teams.
The five stars still in the running for the #EPOTY2021 prize have been announced! ?
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) May 4, 2021
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