Giant Wallabies and NSW Waratahs lock Will Skelton intends improving his lineout skills after picking up some tips in a beneficial off-season stint with European rugby champions Saracens.
Skelton played seven games for the reigning English and European champions, with Sarries’ director of rugby Mark McCall hailing Skelton’s “brilliant contribution” in the stint which ended last month.
Among his teammates at the club were fellow locks Maro Itoje and George Kruis, who were part of the England squad who whitewashed the Wallabies last June in their three Test series in Australia.
“I took a lot from them and I’ll be looking to add value here and really start with a bang,” Skelton said on Tuesday after Waratahs training.
“Half their (Saracens) team is in the English team, so you learn a lot, lineout-wise and scrum-wise.” Although he’s 203 cms, Skelton isn’t renowned for being a force in the lineout and says he wants that to be an asset.
“I love to ball-carry and stuff like that but, being a lock, you have to be able to jump in the lineout,” Skelton said.
“I think working with Bladesy (Waratahs forwards coach Cam Blades) and guys like (Waratahs and Wallabies lock) Dean Mumm, who have the experience there, can really help me to improve my jump and to improve my lifting as well.”
While not shedding any weight from his massive frame, Skelton said his recent match play meant he was in much better shape than at the same stage last year, when he was recovering from a pectoral injury.
Quality of play rather than quantity of minutes is the big goal in 2017 for Skelton, who has started just six out of 18 Tests.
“I think, when I’m playing a full game, I sort of preserve my energy for the last 20 or the last 10 (minutes) and I don’t get the quality for my team,” he said.
“Thats the focus (this season) – I’ve spoken to (Waratahs coach) Daryl (Gibson) about it, to really improve this year.”
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika changed his lock combination throughout 2016, but Skelton started just one game last year.
He made his other three 2016 appearances off the bench, with Cheika opting for the less-experienced combination of Rory Arnold and Adam Coleman as his starters as the year progressed.
“I wasn’t in good form last year, so I didn’t warrant a spot in the team,” Skelton said.
“Credit to those boys. Rory killed it last year, Coleman had an injury (get him) back in, but he did really well.”