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Will Skelton can bring French 'edge' to Wallabies pack

By AAP
Stade Rochelais player Will Skelton celebrates on the final whistle during the Heineken Champions Cup Final between Leinster Rugby and Stade Rochelais at Aviva Stadium on May 20, 2023 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Will Skelton admits he’s yet to realise his potential in a Wallabies jersey but thinks with better knowledge of how to use his 150kg body and some rare time in camp that will all change.

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The 31-year-old lock has forged a reputation as one of the world’s best club forwards, winning three European Championship Cups since leaving Super Rugby in 2017.

Parachuted into the Wallabies overseas-based squads for the last two Spring Tours, it’s yet to translate to the Test arena.

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In camp on the Gold Coast – his first Australian camp since 2016 – the 26-Test wrecking ball now shapes as a chief destroyer in coach Eddie Jones’ World Cup plans.

“I’ve had a lot of opportunity in the jersey, and not taken the best step forward in my opinion,” the La Rochelle lock said.

“It’s an opportunity now to come out and inject a bit of experience, a bit of wisdom.”

Used to winning in his time with the Top 14 powerhouse, Skelton used the word “edge” to describe a trait he thinks Jones’ selections have added in the side that will play South Africa in Pretoria on July 8.

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Asked to elaborate, Skelton had to watch his words.

“I can’t say the word … it’s the ‘c’ word,” he said.

“Edge is being tough, at training not letting guys go through in contact. competing every set, every maul, every scrum.

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“That will transfer to the field.”

That isn’t what Jones has demanded of the ruck-crasher, although it might be something Skelton still offers.

“I like to go through the maul in defence … as I’ve gotten older I’ve learnt to use my body a bit more smartly,” he said.

“I know if I’m on the ground here I have to get up, or know what ruck I can hit.”

Top 14 adversary Richie Arnold is also in camp, weeks after his Toulouse side beat Skelton’s La Rochelle by three points in the French final.

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The identical twin of 32-Test lock Rory, Arnold is uncapped but capable of forming a lethal French connection with Skelton in the second-row.

“Richie’s a pest on the rugby field, a nuisance,” Skelton said.

“In the lineout particularly he’s a menace, has that edge.

“In Europe (clubs use) the big No.5 lock then the mobile No.4;

“That’s an option and Richie can play both sides.

“We’ll be putting our hands up.

“At La Rochelle we played a power game; we’d scrum and maul teams off the park and I think we can use that here.

“Rugby’s changed a lot but that facet is a strength you can never take away.”

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William 1 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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