Cheika to bring in Saracens star for World Cup
NEWS: Michael Cheika’s powers of persuasion have seemingly convinced monster lock, Will Skelton, to return to Australia to boost the Wallabies’ Rugby World Cup hopes.
Skelton is said to be so keen to feature in this year’s World Cup in Japan that he is considering turning down a lucrative two-year contract offer from Saracens in London with the European champions.
Skelton has enjoyed a stellar season in the English Premiership after shedding 20 kilograms after hitting the scales at more than 140kg during his Super Rugby days with the Waratahs.
His great form has caught the attention of Cheika, who met with the second-rower during a reconnaissance trip to Europe two months ago.
It’s understood Cheika will speak with Skelton again this week while back in Europe for a 10-year reunion for Leinster’s 2009 European Cup win when the Wallabies coach was in charge of the Irish outfit.
With Skelton’s 18 Tests for Australia falling well below the minimum level of 60 appearances required for national selection of overseas-based players, Cheika will need to get creative in order for the 27-year-old enforcer to qualify for the World Cup.
Exeter’s Nic White is in a similar position, but by agreeing to join an Australian Super Rugby side in 2020, the former Wallabies halfback has become available for Japan 2019.
Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall is resigned to losing the club’s players’ player of the year winner.
“He is keen to play in the World Cup, but he is also keen to play for Saracens, which is quite complex,” McCall said.
“There hasn’t been much contact from Australia but I think there will be and we want our players to play in the World Cup.
“For that to happen he probably has to sign longer term there, which is not what we want but if that is what Will decides, that is what he decides.
“Nic White has some arrangement. We haven’t been approached yet, but you’d imagine that might suggest something like that.”
Skelton has flourished to the point that England talisman Maro Itoje has been shifted to blindside flanker to accommodate him.
“When I see him play and I see him carrying and I see him hit people, I am happy he is on my side rather than the opposition,” Itoje said.
Should Cheika get his man, it would be a coup not dissimilar to his luring of veterans Matt Giteau, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Drew Mitchell back from France to feature in the 2015 World Cup.
Cheika’s audacious move led the introduction of the so-called “Giteau Law”, which proved a masterstroke.
Giteau, Ashley-Cooper and Mitchell all starred during Australia’s improbable run to the last World Cup final.