The impact of Will Skelton

The impact of Will Skelton

The impact of Will Skelton

A record crowd of 43 188 gathered at Allianz Stadium, eagerly awaiting the debut of the biggest player Australian Rugby has ever produced, Will Skelton.

Will SkeltonWill Skelton – product of the NSW Waratahs – stepped into the number 4 jumper for the third and final test between the Wallabies and France, replacing seasoned veteran James Horwill who was relegated to the bench.

The 203cm, 140kg lock barnstormed his way to an incredible debut – one not seen since Israel Folau’s first game for the Wallabies against the British and Irish Lions last year – Skelton scoring one try and setting up another.

Skelton took his opportunity with both hands, and made a devastating impact on a depleted French side that was looking forward to heading home after a long International season.

For his shear size, Skelton is a damaging ball-runner, getting the Wallabies over the advantage line on numerous occasions, which in turn provided quick ball for the outside backs to work off and attack the French defensive line.

In a 56-minute onslaught, Skelton was able to produce numbers that rivalled those acquired by his opposition and counterparts who played more minutes then himself;

SKELTON (AUS): 1 linebreak, 1 linebreak assist, 1 offload, 2 tackle busts and 5 runs for 28 metres.

FLANQUART (FRA): 3 runs for 14 metres.

MAESTRI (FRA): 3 runs for 10 metres.

CARTER (AUS) – GAME 1: 2 tackle busts, 9 runs for 34 metres (played 80 minutes).

The difficulty with comparing these statistics is that each player has a different role and there are also differing tactics for each game, however, on Saturday afternoon it was very noticeable how easy Skelton propelled the Wallabies over the advantage line.

As the above statistics point out, not only is Skelton a devastating ball-runner but he also has immense skill for his size, most notably when he produced soft hands to deliver an exquisite pass to send Israel Folau straight through a gaping hole and over for his second try of the match. Before Skelton gave the pass, he drew in a second French defender, with the illusion he was going to run hard and straight.

Even Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie alluded to Skelton’s ability, “his skill was very interesting”, and also mentioned how he was not at all surprised with the skill level of Skelton, judging from what he had seen at Super Rugby level.

Wallabies lineout

Wallabies lineout

One problem identified with the inclusion of Skelton in the starting squad, especially over the likes of Horwill and Carter, is the lineout. Due to his size, it is virtually impossible to lift him, and so takes away a lineout option for the Wallabies. However, it provides the opportunity for Australia to use him in the backline in a crash ball scenario.

Skelton’s substitution in the 56th minute also provided a talking point, with question marks surrounding his fitness. However, the Wallabies implemented other changes shortly afterwards for Palu, White and Toomua, with McKenzie stating at the conclusion of the game that he, “tried to give everyone an opportunity to play”, especially before the Rugby Championship.

Skelton’s substitution at that period in the test, allowed the fresh and experienced legs of James Horwill enough time to make an impact in the game, and also shows that Skelton could also be used as more of an impact player for the Wallabies in the future, to exploit oppositions defenses at a vulnerable time in a match.


Since the Wallabies had already obtained the trophy after winning the first two tests, Skelton was able to play his natural style without the added pressure of a must-win-game. Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie eased Skelton into test match rugby, giving him a number of weeks to immerse himself in the environment of the team and learn from the more experienced individuals at training.

McKenzie was impressed with the effort from Skelton and was all praise for the young man, “He had a significant impact on a test match against a tier one country in his first game” McKenzie stated, “He did a good job”, he added.

Wallabies captain and fellow Waratah Michael Hooper followed on from McKenzie’s words, identifying that Skelton played a key role in the Wallabies win on Saturday and was delighted with how his teammate took his Super Rugby form into the test.

Skelton crashes over“I’ve always seen he can carry the ball and be damaging at rucks, it was just doing it at a new level”, Hooper stated.

Hooper also added, “our locks are in great shape”, which highlights the Wallabies depth in a number of positions now, especially lock and number 8 following the excellent debut of Skelton.

LOCK: James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton, Sam Carter.

NUMBER 8: Wycliff Palu, Ben McCalman, Scott Higgenbotham.

The Wallabies added the Trophée des Bicentenaries to their trophy cabinet following their clean-sweep of France in a 3 match series and look in good shape ahead of the upcoming Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship in August.


Statistics sourced from:

  • Hand of Law

    Bravo big lad. Another level for the ABs though.

  • JimmyC

    Skelton has jumped for Uni why have the Tahs and Wallabies decided he can’t? It the test match it was clear they had not trained him to jump. Simmons was getting double teamed and still calling himself at four and not a free Skelton at two.

    Also stating it’s ‘virtually impossible to lift him’ shows the lack of knowledge on how a lineout opperates. Jumpers jump and are then supported. Brodie Retallick, Cliff Palu and Kane Douglas are big units (over 120kgs) and its done with ease. Surely the extra few doesn’t blow them out completely.

    • tah fan

      He’s only jumped a few times at the tahs, but he can do it. I say get him to jump early in a game and then use him as the behind lifter later in the game when people are tired

    • Nathan Farebrother

      Perhaps the Wallabies and Tahs don’t feel that Skelton is a viable option as a lineout jumper. It also depends on the situation of the game, and ultimately the person calling them, in this case Simmons. He could be deemed to be an option in the future, but not now due to his lack of experience.

      I am well aware of how a line out operates, considering I have played rugby since I was 6 – mostly as a lock myself. 20kg can be a huge difference, especially when Skelton’s thighs are the size of Nic White’s whole body. It shouldn’t be a huge deal at this level, it just really depends on who the Wallabies see as quality lineout jumpers at this stage.

      • JimmyC

        So it’s not virtually impossible

  • DameEdnasPossum

    Go you good (big) thing…

    • Tao Te Ching

      Damn straight! Unlimited potential. Imagine a lean, hard, equally-big 80-minutes Skelton in three years time.

      • DameEdnasPossum

        Absolutely. He looked shagged when he came off. Huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf. He almost struggled to raise his right arm

        With the right regime of diet and exercise in place he’d have the likes of Victor, Kieran, Brad, Bakkies, Ali and Eben all crying for their respective mummies.

        There will now be a heightened level of interest of specialists now helping him drop 25kgs of lard and putting 15 kgs of lean muscle on.

        Amongst his many benefits, at number 2 or number 4 in the lineout his height provides a distinct tactical advantage (as we saw) with the quick feed that requires no jump and cannot be competed against.

        Go you good (big green and gold) thing.

        I can feel it my waters, the Wallabies are finally getting their act together

  • bad ass

    I had a tear in my eye and swore I could hear our national anthem as you repeated his name “Will Skelton”and wrote “a product of the NSW Waratahs. Reasonable write up, however I think it’s a bit much to suggest that the waratahs produced him. They did not. He simply plays for them.

    • Michael

      He has been in the Waratahs fold and on their radar since high school. They have put a lot of work into him over the last four or so years. On another note. I put a lazy tenner on him to score the first try…. I really love Big Will.

      • bad ass

        Thanks Michael for clearing that up. Will scoring first depends on the rest if the team, forwards achieving and maintaining possession and the halves to get us down there. A tall order against the obelix. It won’t be his fault if he doesn’t score the first try. Go big guy!

        • Michael

          I agree, lots of external factors had to come together. That is why it was paying $46 I suppose.

        • bad ass

          With our new defence possibly able to keep them out, sounds like a good bet at 46. I’d take it.

  • Brawndo

    Can’t we just let him find his oversized footing at test and superugby without all this premature adulation? It can’t be good for a young player.

    And while I enjoyed his debut as much as the next fan, if you’re going to directly compare his debut with Carter’s how about including tackle stats? 17 tackles for Carter’s debut on an injured ankle. That’s almost half the number of tackles Will has made in his entire Superugby career (35). In one game!

    • Nathan Farebrother

      Sorry, I should have included some tackle statistics! According to the Australian Rugby Union Page, in his debut, Carter made 16 tackles in 80 minutes of play, whilst Skelton made 7 in 57 minutes. If Skelton had played the same amount of minutes, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he did accumulate the same amount of tackles as Carter.

      Carter is a very good defensive player, along with being an exceptional worker at the breakdown, whilst Skelton is more used for his attacking benefit of moving the Wallabies across the advantage line. Again, it really depends on what the tactics McKenzie wants to implement against different opposition.

      • sidesteppa

        when counting tackles you sometimes need to check possession stats too. if the aussies had more ball in one of these tests then the guys will obviously be making less tackles..

  • Parra

    One person has alluded to this – he is a very good non-jumping jumper and took at least two clean balls at the front of the line out. Obviously he can’t be used like that every time but it provides a great option, or a foil, and does actually provide that third option, if not (yet) a third jumper.

  • Axel oldie

    Promising debut by Big Will in scoring a great individual try and setting up another. He is exciting to watch and should cause some shivers in the AB’s camp. He’s like an Aussie Jonah Lomu, not as fast, but BIG, and just what the Aussies need to suck in defenders. Will is a worthy inclusion in the Wallabies squad. He could be used occasionally as a line-out jumper, but it is not necessary, especially when he is such an excellent ball runner. Fitness is an issue, which he can work on for next year’s World Cup. Go the Wallabies!

  • Bill

    I just want to see Will reply in a post match interview “how did I do it? …BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL !!!”

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