Scotland v Ireland: Sam Skinner aims to bring club form to international stage

Exeter Chiefs second-row scored two tries in Saturday's 38-16 victory over Bath

Sam Skinner was one of three players added to Scotland's training squad on Sunday. Image: © Craig Watson -
Sam Skinner was one of three players added to Scotland's training squad on Sunday. Image: © Craig Watson -

SAM SKINNER plans to bring his recent club form into the Scotland camp this week, with the 26-year-old keen to push his way back into the match-day squad for Sunday’s Six Nations clash against Ireland at Murrayfield.

He is on a high after grabbing two tries for Exeter Chiefs during their 38-16 Gallagher Premiership victory over Bath on Saturday, and believes that he is beginning to reap the rewards from knuckling down on his game after missing out on the initial squad selection for this Six Nations.

“I was massively disappointed to be left out of the original squad but Gregor [Townsend] is the man with the opinion that matters and I wasn’t involved, so that’s just the way it is,” he said. “But I’m back here now and have got to try to keep it that way by training and playing as well as I can.

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“Naturally, there are areas of the game I can improve – I am aware of what my work-ons are – and hopefully he [Townsend] has seen that in my recent performances. There was some feedback I could use in my games and I think that has been really helpful and beneficial for me – not only in trying to play better but also in my relationship with Exeter. It’s been a tough process but it has put me in a good place going forward.

“There’s not much more I can say,” he added. “I had to look inwardly a little bit and think of areas of my game I could knuckle down on. One positive was that it gave me an opportunity to really focus on my game at Exeter and get a run of games together to improve my performances. Hopefully I have done that.

“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. I 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.”

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Exeter Chiefs head coach Ali Hephier said after Saturday’s match that Skinner is one of the most intelligent players in the team, which is “like having another fly-half on the pitch”. He is also a formidable physical specimen, with the athleticism to play in the back-row as well as the engine-room.

So, there is no doubting his potential value to the Scotland team, although he has struggled to fully establish himself in the two and a half years since making his debut against Fiji back in November 2018, during which time he has managed just 10 caps in total, with his last start being in the World Cup warm-up match against France in August 2019, when he suffered a hamstring injury which ruled him out of the trip to Japan and the start of the 2020 Six Nations.

“That’s one thing I’ve been aware of and I’m trying to get the opportunity to put a string of games together for Scotland and to play consistent rugby,” he said. “I’m extremely passionate to see that happen and I’ll keep pushing as hard as I can.

“Fate 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.

“There’s not a lot more I can say. I had games here and there but it hasn’t really gone my way early on. I’ll just keep cracking on and hopefully get there eventually.”

Selection for Sunday’s match would be a good starting point for Skinner in his quest to fully establish his international credentials. It is a huge game for both side. Having lost two games already in this championship, Ireland will be firing on all cylinders as they look to avoid finishing outside the top three for the first time since 2013, while Scotland need to bounce back after their opening weekend success at Twickenham was followed by a disappointing home loss to Wales in round two.

“I don’t think Scotland need to change too much,” said Skinner. “We’ve looked pretty strong in the last couple of games, really competitive. The stats speak for themselves in terms of where we are as a side, although obviously the most important stat is getting a win.

“We haven’t started our preview process yet but I played in the last game against Ireland 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 can’t wait to get stuck in.”

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About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.