Will Skelton, the rookie 6ft 7in, 20st lock who left Jonathan Sexton in a painful heap yesterday, believes he has given the Wallabies an example of how to disrupt the Lions in Saturday’s First Test in Brisbane.
While the 21-year-old could not save his New South Wales Waratahs team from a 47-17 beating, he put down the kind of physical marker that has left an impression on the touring team and the watching Wallabies at their training camp.
Skelton was only spotted by Waratahs scouts at an academy game when he played against their organisation earlier this year, but he has the physical attributes to become a force at the highest level, and Sexton can testify to his hitting power in the tackle.
The youngster played down the ferocity of his hit, which was the culmination of a predetermined policy to soften up the Lions half-backs. He said: “I don’t think it was a late tackle on Sexton and we knew we were facing the best of the Four Nations and had watched Mike Phillips and Sexton and had seen how they throw the dummy, and so we had to make the hits.
“If the Wallabies make sure there is no room then they can put pressure on the Lions half-backs. The Wallabies have lots of experience and I had nothing to lose, because I had never played in a game like this before. I didn’t go out there to hurt anyone, and they are professionals who face that kind of tackling every week and won’t have been worried about a young kid from Blacktown doing that to them – it won’t faze those guys.”
Dave Dennis, the Waratahs captain, was released by the Wallabies head coach, Robbie Deans, to bolster the Sydney-based franchise against the Lions, and returns to the national training camp tomorrow armed with useful information. Dennis has seen the Lions at first hand, with the rest of the Wallabies squad kept away from the touring team in an effort to spring a surprise in the First Test.
Dennis said; “Playing the Lions was very useful. They do keep it tight in the forwards and then go through you at the edges, and exposed us in those areas. We were caught out by being too tight.
“I am better off for having played against the Lions and now I can pass on a bit of knowledge and help the boys prepare for the First Test. There is always a doubt, because you wonder if you have prepared right for a touring team and we saw a few new things in this game. I am sure the Lions will push the laws to the limit at the breakdown.
“There were a couple of occasions where they weren’t supporting their own body-weight while pilfering the ball, and got away with it.”