‘Hurt’ Skelton in frame for Rugby Championship call-up

Australia’s second-row powerhouse Will Skelton is set to feature in the Wallabies’ Rugby Championship squad after admitting he was “hurt” by being overlooked for Test honours against England.

Skelton was expected to start for the Barbarians in their Sunday game against England, which serves as a warm-up for Eddie Jones’ side before the first Test in Perth on July 2.

Will Skelton could feature for the Wallabies later this year.Credit:Getty

The coveted Baa Baas call-up capped another standout season in European rugby. The 30-year-old giant starred for Heineken Cup champions La Rochelle this season, adding to the silverware he collected from spells with Saracens (2019) and the Waratahs (2014).

His impact off the bench for his club had France and Barbarians coach Fabian Galthie scratching his head over how Australia had declined the chance to recall the 140kg, 203cm second-rower for the England series.

Skelton tackles Antoine Dupont of Toulouse in last year’s Heineken Cup final.Credit:Getty

But the Herald has learned that Skelton and once-regular second row pick, Rory Arnold, are in the frame for the next series, The Rugby Championship, which starts with back-to-back Tests away against Argentina. Force lock Izack Rodda, who partnered regularly with Arnold under former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, is out for three months with a foot injury. The absence will rule him out of the Argentina and, potentially, South Africa legs of the tournament.

Under the revised Giteau Law protocols, Rennie can only have three overseas-based players per series, meaning he would have to swap out one or more of the current three – Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete – to make room for Skelton or Arnold.

With Kerevi eyeing a Commonwealth Games campaign with the Australian men’s sevens side, Rennie could face some tough choices between his workhorse winger, Koroibete, and Cooper, who is his likely starting No.10.

Coach Dave Rennie hinted to the Herald recently that the long European season contributed to his decision to look to Japan for reinforcements against England, but reiterated that Skelton could come into play beyond that.

“That’s the challenge around guys coming out of France. They go deep into a season. It’s been a hell of a long year,” Rennie said. “We brought them (Skelton and Rory Arnold) in last year, and he fitted in well. I’m not looking to bring him back for the England series but maybe beyond that.”

The Japanese season ran almost parallel to Super Rugby Pacific, allowing Cooper, Kerevi and Koroibete to arrive fresh and rested in Australia after their seasons wrapped up at the end of May.

Skelton and Arnold’s clubs are still playing in the French domestic league, and Rennie may have wanted to give them time to recuperate before enlisting them for The Rugby Championship.

The message may have been scrambled in transit, because Skelton told a recent podcast he was “hurt” by the snub.

“I obviously played in November and I haven’t had much contact after that. I think I spoke to Rens a week after we broke up and I haven’t had much contact,” he said.

“In my head I had an inkling that they’d pick those Japanese boys – the season’s aligned with Super Rugby and the Japanese league and with us having such a long season I know from the chats that we had in November they were almost not going to pick us.

“It obviously hurts not to be selected but that’s life and I can only control what I can control.”

Watch every match of the July Test Series on the Home of Rugby, Stan Sport. Kicks off Saturday, July 2 with Wallabies v England, New Zealand v Ireland, South Africa v Wales and Argentina v Scotland. All streaming ad-free, live and on demand only on Stan Sport.

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