As we enter a World Cup year Mike Stanton takes a look at some of the best young players that could feature at the 2015 Rugby World Cup: Will Skelton.
Rugby World Cups are the pinnacle of world rugby. They offer a chance for players to get their name etched into rugby folklore. Lomu, Campese, Wilkinson, these are just some of the names of players who will never be forgotten not only for their impact on rugby but most notable for their roles in a World Cup.
The World Cup is also an incredible opportunity for players to show the world what they have. With the tournament comes the World’s media, the sport comes under the focus of all sport lovers and provides a chance for young players to book their place on the international circuit of years to come.
In these articles I will hope to pick out some young players for whom the 2015 Rugby World Cup could be their chance to stamp their authority on the game and secure their place in their national side’s starting line-ups.
• Second Row: Will Skelton (Australia)
Rugby is quickly becoming a 46 man game. In recent years the role of the bench has moved from being one of providing cover to being a key weapon with impact players being bought on at key times to maximize there impact, a tactic used brilliantly by the French in their use of Sebastian Chabal near the end of his international career.
The thinking is simple, get a big, powerful man coming on fresh off the bench after 60 minutes running at tired bodies. Simple. Very effective.
Australia have unearthed an impact man of themselves in Will Skelton, yet how at 6’ 7” and 21 stone it has taken until he was 22 years old to be spotted is remarkable.
You may be forgiven for thinking that New-Zealand born Skelton is a one trick pony, master of the smash and grab and simply used as a battering ram from short range.
True, he is quickly becoming regarded as almost a guaranteed try from five meters out, but the big second rower combines this size with soft hands and a deft touch which raises him from being just another scarily big rugby player to a player with real potential and one who has incredible playing ability, as one article in the Guardian last year gives testimony too, claiming he could become ‘Rugby’s Biggest Star’.
Putting the pun to one side Skelton does truly have potential to become a house hold name and the 2015 World Cup will put the young Waratahs man center stage in the fight for Pool One between England, Australia and Wales as the World’s eyes turn to rugby.
The 2015 World Cup can provide Skelton a chance to move from bench impact man to the first name on the team sheet, a chance for him to move from a cult figure on Australia to one of rugby’s leading lights.
After making his Super Rugby debut in 2013 and playing against the British and Irish Lions for the Super Rugby outfit, Skelton went on to play every game in the 2014 campaign and secured himself a call-up to the Wallabies squad.
His test debut came against France, marking his arrival on the international scene with a solo try and setting up another, not bad for a player from the engine room.
His performances against the French won him a place in the Spring Touring Squad where he continued to excel and now, with eight Wallaby caps to his name, he is set to make a huge impact on the 2015 World Cup with the potential to leave a size 18 boot print on the memory of the rugby world.
I titled this article ‘Australia’s Sleeping Giant’ not at a dig at Skelton who is in a rich vein of form but more as his awakening referring to the 2015 World Cup being a coming of age moment for the second rower who has already built a cult following but now has a chance to show his potential to the world on rugby’s biggest stage.
One final thing to note. If the prospect of Will Skelton making a mark on rugby in the coming months doesn’t wet the appetite, in July 2014 the Chiefs signed his younger brother (Cameron Skelton). And he is even bigger at 6’ 8” and 22 stone. That is one Super Rugby clash I am sure we will all be keeping an eye out for.