Scotland lock swaps Exeter Chiefs for Edinburgh
NEWS: Scotland lock Sam Skinner admits it’s with a heavy heart that he will be calling time on his Exeter Chiefs career at the end of the current campaign.
The 26-year-old, who is set to bring the curtain down on a seven-year stint with his hometown club, will join Scottish side Edinburgh ahead of the 2022/23 season.
Since making his debut against Gloucester in the LV= Cup back in November 2014, the Scottish international has to date amassed 94 appearances for the club, scoring 14 tries in the process.
A product of Torquay Boys’ Grammar School, Skinner finished his secondary studies in 2013 and set his sights on travelling the world on a gap year but a late growth spurt encouraged him to give rugby one last go.
He featured for National League Two South side Taunton Titans in 2014 – a period in which he was involved in the then Scottish Exiles (now Scottish Qualified) programme – before he was picked up by the Chiefs in the 2014/15 season.
The lock was then selected for England U20 – and faced many of his Scotland contemporaries in the age-grade Six Nations – before becoming an increasingly prominent part of the Exeter squad that won the English Premiership title in 2017 and 2020 (runners-up in 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2021), completing the double with European Champions Cup glory in 2020.
As well as being part of the Exeter Chiefs squad, Skinner has, for the last few years, combined his work at Sandy Park with that of studying for a degree at the University of Exeter – whom he captained to BUCS Championship success in 2016 – with the lock recently achieving a first in business and economics.
A Scotland debutant against Fiji in 2018, Skinner – who is equally adept at lock or in the back-row – has featured in a plethora of memorable games for the national side, including the 38-38 draw at Twickenham in 2019 and the 2021 win over France in Paris, the team’s first such result since 1999.
The time has come, however, for Skinner to write a new chapter in his career and a move North of the Border is one he feels he must take.
“It’s been an extremely hard decision to make,” he said. “I’ve grown up supporting Exeter and lived here all my life. What the Chiefs have given me in terms of my career is something I could never have dreamed of.
“To have experienced what I have, I will forever be grateful. As I said, it’s not been an easy decision, but I’ve come to a point in my career where, on a personal and playing level, I need to challenge myself in a different area and this feels like the right time to move on.”
A hugely popular figure within the playing ranks at Sandy Park, Skinner admits he has made ‘endless memories’ and that he aims to make a few more before departing next summer.
“I’ll be honest, I never thought this day would come,” he added. “Exeter and the Chiefs has been my life for such a long time. To be part of what the club has achieved over the years has been amazing and the stuff of dreams. Equally, the connection and bond I have made with players, staff and the supporters, I can’t put into words what that means to me.
“I’m sure I will miss playing at Sandy Park because the crowd here is just immense. Match-days the atmosphere is incredible and that’s something I am sure I will miss. Now, I’ve got seven months to give everything I have to the club.
“I want to enjoy every day and the best way to do that is by working as hard as I possibly can. The obvious goal is to win trophies and if we can do that, then it will be a dream come true to finish on a high.
“Being a Chief is all about working extremely hard, that’s a given if you are here. That said, the thing that makes the club so special is that we also know that when the time is right, we can play hard off the field and enjoy ourselves. Being yourself, being a good human being and being in this mix of different characters, it’s what makes the club what it is.
“For me, this chapter is closing and another is set to begin, but I am sure I will look back on this time with so much fondness.”