Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Skinner up as Exeter star returns to Scotland squad

It says a lot about Scotland’s strength in the loose 5 forwards that they could afford to leave out a European cup winner, but seeing as one of those keeping him out of Townsend’s plans is also a club teammate, Exeter’s Sam Skinner is only too aware of the competition ahead of him as he was called up for the Scotland squad to face Ireland.

“I was gutted and disappointed not to be involved from the start. I had to look inwardly a little bit and think of areas of my game I could knuckle down on.

“Naturally, there are areas of the game I can improve. There was some feedback I could use in my games and I think that has been really helpful and beneficial for me. One positive was that it gave me an opportunity to really focus on my game at Exeter and get a run of games together and improve my performances. Hopefully I have done that.”

Recent history would suggest that he has seized that opportunity at club level. With some of his teammate’s away on international duty – such as compatriot Jonny Gray, a rival for one of the lock slots at both levels – Skinner has started the last six Exeter games in the engine room, including a double try-scoring effort in his last outing against Bath.

“To be completely truthful I feel like I’ve been trying to graft as hard as I can. I just hope that the harder you work, the luckier you get. That’s the situation I’ve found myself in – I’ve got the opportunity to bag a couple of tries against Bath, which was great. I just really enjoyed the whole performance against Bath, both as a team and personally. It was a massive win for Exeter, we needed that. And it was a big confidence boost for us.”

After a man-of-the-match winning Scotland debut against Fiji, Skinner’s rotten luck with injuries has contributed to his slide from the reckoning but the form of his rivals is the biggest obstacle to his matchday return.

At blindside flanker, Jamie Ritchie’s proven so suited to Test-match rugby that he’s now considered vice-captain material, and it would take a consistent downturn in form for Townsend to notion at splitting the Ritchie-Watson partnership, or if he wants to play lock he’d have to split up the now established duo of clubmate Gray and Cummings.

“I’ve never said it’s my wish to play at lock full-time but I have been playing there a lot recently. I was massively disappointed [to be left out of the squad] but Gregor is the man with the opinion that matters and I wasn’t involved.  

“Luck hasn’t always been on my side. I’ve had injuries at key times. But that’s the way it goes. If I get a few opportunities I’ll do my best to take them. I’ll take whatever I’m given. I’m not complaining.”

Skinner’s last appearance in a Scotland jersey came against the same opponents he’ll be hoping to face this weekend in a fixture which has seen some spiky comments headed in this direction from the Irish media. Eddie O’Sullivan’s infamous barb that the Scots were “delusional” came after that Autumn Nations Cup match when a patched-up Scotland side played some decent rugby up until Duncan Taylor’s harsh yellow card.

“He’s obviously got his reasons for his opinion, it’s just the way it was”, said an untrifled Skinner.

“There are lots of things that are said in the media, and people are entitled to their opinion. I tend not to get too hung up on these things. To be honest the first time I heard that quote was when you just said it to me then. That tells you how little I knew about the situation.

“We haven’t started our preview process yet but I played in the last game and they’re a quality side. The way they’re talking and playing they seem to be in a strong and confident place so there’s a hell of a battle coming up this weekend and I can’t wait to get stuck in.”

Revised Scotland Squad (v Ireland Sun 14th March)

Forwards: Ewan Ashman, Simon Berghan, Jamie Bhatti,
David Cherry, Alex Craig, Scott Cummings, Matt Fagerson,
Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Nick Haining, Rob Harley,
Oli Kebble, WP Nel, Cornell du Preez, Jamie Ritchie, Sam Skinner,
Rory Sutherland, George Turner, Hamish Watson

Backs: Jamie Dobie, Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Stuart Hogg (c), Sam Johnson, Huw Jones, James Lang, Sean Maitland,
Rufus McLean, Duhan van der Merwe, Ali Price, Finn Russell,
Scott Steele, Duncan Taylor, Jaco van der Walt

15 Responses

  1. I would advocate for a 6/2 bench split vs Ireland as I think they are the best set piece and rucking team in the competition it’s the most attritional game and you have to compete physical for 80 minutes.
    Sutherland, Turner, Nel, Gray, Cummings, Ritchie, Fagerson, Watson, Price, Russell, DVDM, Johnson, Harris, Maitland, Hogg
    Keeble, Cherry, Bergan, Gilchrist, Skinner, Haining, Steele, Jones.

    1. I think a 6/2 split on the bench is far too risky. Any injury in the back line will expose us.
      I don’t think having the addition of one of Gilchrist, Skinner or Haining sufficiently off-sets the risk of having another 2017 Calcutta Cup. Remember Ali Price having to go on the wing after both Hogg and Bennett got injured?

      1. well we would only really be exposed at 10 and do you think we can win if russell goes off injured anyway? would Hogg at 10 and Jones at 15 really be much worse than VDW at 10 and hogg at 15?
        It’s a calculated risk but I think worth it being able to bring on a 6, 8 and 4 to assist the front row replacement and keep carrying hard into the final minutes and keep up the pressure could be worth it.

      2. This team really picks itself as per my prediction above. I still maintain that Skinner on the bench in addition to Gilchrist and Haining would be more use for this game than Graham but here’s hoping I’m wrong and wee D’Arcy gets on gives a winning contribution.

  2. Doris is still out with concussion so a big plus for Scotland. Baird if he makes an appearance from the bench is an awesome athlete though..

    1. Fagerson and Redpath out is a big plus for Ireland….would have definitely fancied our chances with those 2 added.

  3. We need to do alot of what we haven’t done against Ireland. We have made many of the same mistakes time and time again particularly against Ireland. The balance of risk and take the points needs to be right.

    This is our hardest match this championship psychologically. We win its a huge step.

    With only 3 home victories of the 8 matches so far it seems its better to be the away side.

    How do we beat this Irish side even with their cheating/cuteness being on point?

    1. We need to match their physicality, maintain discipline and be clinical when we have the chance to take points.

      We’d have beaten Wales regardless of a red card if we’d scored instead of getting a try disallowed for blocking when we had our foot on Wales throat.

      Wales aren’t amazing but are in track for a grand slam because they are easily the most efficient team at converting chances.

  4. Think it’s crucial that Nel starts this game and we try and get 50-55 mins out of him. Getting on the wrong side of poite at the set piece will make it a long afternoon.

  5. In other news…Carley and the judicial system are at it again. 4 weeks for Thorley…3 for Hepetema.

  6. Eddie O Sullivan and that walnut brained human side of beef Stephen Ferris had some harsh words for us after the AIs.

    Hope we’ve taken note.

  7. Gotta say listening to the left wing podcast Hope Ireland approach the game like Fitzgerald and slaterry,especially slattery, if so they will be seriously underrating Scotland. Really hope we batter Ireland tbh

  8. Having followed Scottish rugby for more years than i care to mention i wish i could be filled with more cheer. I remember the 80s and 90s when Ireland couldn’t buy a win against Scotland and we travelled to landsdowne road in expectation rather than hope. It all seems so distant now. How quickly the Emerald Isle took to the professional game and we have been playing catch up these 20 years. I honestly don’t think we are any nearer eclipsing them. Sure we may win the occasional game and hopefully Saturday will be one of them ( I certainly will be hoping so) but when one looks at how well their provinces are doing compared with our 2 professional teams this game can only end one way. If we had been riding an unbeaten wave as we seemed set to do after the England game , perhaps things would be different but the wind has been reffed out of our sails. Ireland by 10 points.

You might also like these:

Craig is joined by Jonny and Iain to look forward to Glasgow's huge URC final in Pretoria, after the win against Munster and skirt around the latest news of the week.
Craig is joined by Jonny and Rory to look back at the disappointing end to Edinburgh's season and Glasgow's march towards the semi finals.
Gregor Townsend has named a largely experimental squad for the summer tour of the Americas. It's not a question of who misses out, but rather who is actually going, writes Rory.
Iain is joined by Jonny and John to discuss the penultimate round of URC fixtures as well as the recent Scottish Rugby Writers' Awards

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion