Par­ling’s pro­tégé now punch­ing his weight

The Rugby Paper - - News - ■ By NEALE HAR­VEY

EX­ETER lock Sam Skin­ner is hell bent on crown­ing his re­mark­able rags to riches story by lead­ing the Chiefs to Cham­pi­ons Cup suc­cess.

Lo­cal boy Skin­ner, 22, was on the verge of quit­ting rugby four years ago when, af­ter fail­ing to at­tract any in­ter­est as a back rower at ju­nior side Top­sham, he rolled the dice one last time by turn­ing up to pre-sea­son train­ing at Na­tional Two Taun­ton.

Within weeks he was snapped up by Chiefs and, hav­ing im­pressed by cap­tain­ing Ex­eter Univer­sity to a BUCS ti­tle in 2016 while adding 21kgs (3st 5lbs) to a once slen­der frame, Skin­ner has been given a chance to show he can re­place Ge­off Par­ling, be­low. It is an op­por­tu­nity Skin­ner rel­ishes, say­ing: “I feel very for­tu­nate. I grew up sup­port­ing Chiefs but never got picked up by any acad­e­mies and af­ter I fin­ished at Torquay Gram­mar aged 18, I was go­ing to head off trav­el­ling. “I thought I’d just give it one more crack and did a pre-sea­son with Taun­ton un­der Tony Yapp and Chris Brown. I didn’t ex­pect to get in the first team but I got my de­but at home to Shelford and by Novem­ber I’d been signed up by the Chiefs. “I was 90kgs (14st 2lbs) and not in great shape when Chiefs took me on. “I couldn’t lift any weights and was just a skinny back rower, but they sorted my body out and now I’m 111kgs (17st 7lbs) and can punch my weight in the Premier­ship.”

Skin­ner cred­its Par­ling for his li­ne­out skills, adding: “Ge­off had a big in­flu­ence at the club as a li­ne­out spe­cial­ist and I looked to him for the in­depth anal­y­sis he did on other teams and what he was look­ing for in terms of spac­ing the li­ne­outs.

“He wasn’t a mas­sive guy and I’m a sim­i­lar body size, but he was still very phys­i­cal and I’ve tried to de­velop that side of my game as well. I’m start­ing to pick up Premier­ship games con­sis­tently now and just want to keep my good form go­ing.”

Sat­is­fied his per­se­ver­ance has paid off, Skin­ner is ready to im­pose him­self in Europe on be­half of an Ex­eter side with gen­uine as­pi­ra­tions.

With Cham­pi­ons Cup Pool matches against Glas­gow and Mont­pel­lier im­mi­nent, he said: “It would be great if I could get my­self in the mix for Europe. We’ve got a hard group with Le­in­ster as well, but it would be a re­ally good to make that step up.

“We’ll ap­proach Europe in the sense that we’re go­ing to re­ally go for it – and why not?

“A big fo­cus is to en­joy the fact we’re now Premier­ship cham­pi­ons and that rather than be­ing ev­ery­one’s favourite sec­ond team, we know ev­ery­one’s desperate to beat us. We aim to use that pres­sure as a strength, home and abroad.”

Pumped up: Sam Skin­ner

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