Parling’s protégé now punching his weight
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