- 883Wallaby Number
Will Skelton is one of World Rugby’s modern-day giants. Saracens’ director of rugby Mark McCall once described Skelton as the ‘biggest human’ he had ever seen. While that may be true, and at 6’ 8” and 135kg you can understand from where McCall was coming, Will is the smallest of the three Skelton brothers by some margin.
Born in Auckland to Samoan parents, Skelton moved to Australia in the early 2000s and for most of his school life played junior rugby league for the Wentworthville Magpies. It was not until age 15, when he attended The Hills Sports High School, that Skelton began to take an interest in rugby.
Three years later, Skelton and his Hills Sports team attended a Waratahs training session to pose for photos before they played at the World Youth Championship in Japan. Upon his return home, a Magpies team manager saw the published Courier Mail photo of Skelton literally dwarfing Wallaby No.8 Wycliff Palu and convinced the young giant that ‘rugby is your future’. He soon joined Sydney University, won a grand final with the Colts 2ndXV and, straight out of school in 2011, entered the Waratahs Academy.
Under strict training and diet regimens, Skelton trimmed down to 132kg and played for Samoa U20s at the IRB Junior World Trophy Cup. Unfortunately, a fractured foot then saw him miss most of the 2012 season. That blow was soothed when the Waratahs signed Skelton to their extended player squad ahead of the 2013 Super Rugby campaign. After he played the Blues in a January trial two knights - Sir Graham Henry and Sir John Kirwan - came calling with the hope they could convince the New Zealand passport holder to pledge his allegiance to the land of the long white cloud. “At the time I was playing Shute Shield so for someone who hadn’t really been in the professional scene, it was flattering,” Skelton recalled. “But I was loving the culture and loving the boys, and the camaraderie. I don’t think I could leave.”
In May, Skelton made his tournament debut, against the Stormers in Sydney and four weeks later, in what was just his second start at professional level, he ran out to face the might of the British and Irish Lions. A 2014 Test debut, against France in Sydney, was highlighted by a sublime try assist for Israel Folau. Skelton was at it again in the semi-final of Super Rugby when he evaded four Brumby defenders on a near-40 metre weaving run to put Bernard Foley away for the match sealing score that sent his side into an historic first home final.
Skelton attended his first Rugby World Cup in 2015 however his tournament was cut short after he sustained a pectoral injury in the pool match victory over Uruguay. Subsequent shoulder surgery disrupted the 2016 season and by year end Skelton had moved to London on a short-term deal with Saracens. During his time in the north Skelton has enjoyed an unprecedented run of success that includes four Heineken / European Rugby Champions Cup wins (2016/17 & 2018/19 with Sarries and 2021/22 & 2022/23 with La Rochelle) and two (Gallagher) Premiership Rugby victories (2017/18 & 2018/19)
In 2021, and 1,814 days after his previous Test appearance, Skelton returned to the Wallabies when he came off the bench against Scotland at Murrayfield.
Skelton won his first Test cap as a starting lock in the 3rd Test, 39-13 victory over France in Sydney. Skelton’s all-round skills were on display for all to see, firstly when he used his bulk to power over for a first half try, and in doing so become the 92nd Wallaby to score a try on debut, and secondly as he delivered a deft short ball to set up a second half try for fullback Israel Folau. He went on to win a total of eight caps for the season including one in each of the end-of-season Spring Tour internationals.
Skelton earned a further six caps in 2015 and won selection to his first Rugby World Cup however his tournament was brought to a premature close after a he suffered a pectoral injury in the pool game against Uruguay in Birmingham.
He won four caps throughout the year as he struggled with his fitness in the wake of injury-related surgery. Skelton was picked for the Spring Tour and came off the bench in the wins against Scotland and France.
Almost five years after his last Test, Skelton was selected for the U.K leg of the 2021 Spring Tour. He picked up three caps, all as a replacement lock to the pairing of Izack Rodda and Rory Arnold.
Skelton played in three of the five Spring Tour fixtures, against France, Italy and Ireland. In Florence, he won his first run-on XV cap since the 3rd Test vs. England in June 2016.