Skinner benefits from Test exposure
By Mark Stevens
Sam Skinner is back in camp with Scotland ahead of Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash with England at Twickenham, but before he checked in, he was helping Exeter Chiefs to extend their lead at the top of the Gallagher Premiership.
Out with an ankle injury sustained in the first game of this season’s Guinness Six Nations against Italy, Skinner returned to competitive action last weekend, helping the Chiefs to overcome Worcester Warriors 33-30 at Sixways.
The 24-year-old forward was used as a second half replacement for club-mate Jonny Hill and played his part as Rob Baxter’s side notched up their 13th league win of the season, extending their advantage at the top to eight points over next-best Saracens.
Following the final whistle, Skinner was heading North of the Border to once again link-up with Scotland, who will be looking to wrap up an up-and-down campaign for them by seeing off the ‘Auld Enemy’.
Should the Exeter-born ace be retained by Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, he could well find himself up against fellow Chiefs Ben Moon, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell and Henry Slade, all of whom have been retained in Eddie Jones’ England training squad this week.
Although Skinner’s exposure to the Six Nations has been short and sweet, he says the chance to be in and around the international mix is a great opportunity for him to stake his claim further.
“Going into camp with Scotland, it offers me a different perspective and a change of scenery,” he said. “It keeps you fresh and you’re working with different coaches and different players, so it’s been good so far.”
Skinner, however, heads into camp in buoyant mood, particularly as the Chiefs are in fine fettle in terms of the Premiership.
“We’re in a fantastic position at this time of the season,” he added. “We’ve got six games to go before the knockout rounds kick in, so it’s an exciting place to be going forward. Out of those six games, we’ve got four at home and two away, so it’s a great run-in for us.
“I know it’s a cliché, but we just need to take things game by game. For all of us – and I include the fans in this – it’s an exciting place to be.”
And the Chiefs will be hoping they can maintain their rich vein of form between now and the end of the season. In this latest block of four fixtures, three of which were away from home, the Chiefs emerged with three victories and 15 points to put them on 61 for the season to date.
“We’ve come through this latest block really well,” said Skinner. “The squad have bought into things well and we’ve driven performances each week. Obviously the results have gone our way, but that doesn’t mean we rest up now, we know we’ve still got a huge amount of work to do between now and the end of the season.”