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By ARU Media Unit
Australian Rugby Union National Academy lock Will Skelton has signed with the HSBC Waratahs as the final member of the Super Rugby side’s Extended Player Squad, replacing the injured Sam Lane.
The 20-year-old forward from the West of Sydney said he was thrilled to join the Waratahs and continue to chase his Rugby dreams.
“I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face,” Skelton said.
“I haven’t had much football over the past season and a bit because of injury so when I came back I was pretty hungry to play.
“The Academy is brilliant, the coaches are good, the boys are young and they’ve got the talent and they want to train.”
Born in New Zealand to Samoan parents in 1992, Skelton and his family moved to Australia when he was 10 years old.
He played junior rugby league in his early days before taking up Rugby at the age of 15 at the Hills Sports High School in Seven Hills, Western Sydney.
Skelton, who stands at over two metres tall and weighs in at 135kg, will join the Waratahs following the final game of the Pacific Rugby Cup for the Sydney-based National Academy, which sees them taking on Junior Japan in Canberra this weekend.
The Sydney University player has spent the last two years with Australian Rugby Union’s National Academy, but was sidelined in 2012 by a broken foot he received in an inter-Academy game.
This year, he has played with both the Waratahs, in trial matches against the Melbourne Rebels and Auckland Blues, and the National Academy, in the Pacific Rugby Cup.
National Academy coach Sean Hedger was pleased to see Skelton graduate from his “academy apprenticeship” to Super Rugby.
“This is exactly why the National Academy program was established,” Hedger said.
“Will is a perfect example of what we are aiming to achieve in the National Academy program.
“Not just from a Super Rugby selection perspective but from a whole of Rugby development perspective.
“Will was injured in 2012 and he worked really hard to get his body right. His physical development has been outstanding.
“The result on the field is the sum of all of the parts in the program coming together.”
Hedger added that while the National Academy program helped build Rugby players, their off-field lessons were nothing without on-field experience.
“It’s massive for the National Academy to play in the Pacific Rugby Cup because game exposure is what the Super Rugby teams will base most of their judgement on,” Hedger said.
“Will first got noticed in a National Academy training session with the Waratahs but the final decision wasn’t made until after he had played a few games for the National Academy.”
Skelton’s development within the Australian Rugby Union programs started during high school, when he joined the National Gold Squad for training sessions.
The National Gold Squad is an initiative aimed at identifying the next generation of Rugby stars and developing their skills in a high-performance environment.
Australian Rugby Union National HPU Programs Manager Anthony Eddy said it was rewarding to see the development plan for Skelton pay off.
“Will was identified as a young athlete with potential several years ago,” Eddy said.
“It’s great to see him utilise that potential and follow the player development pathway through to a Super Rugby contract.”
Will Skelton is one of 15 National Academy players over the last two years to secure a Super Rugby contract.
The other players are:
• Nigel Ah Wong (Reds),
• Jarrad Butler (Reds),
• Trent Dyer (Rebels),
• Blake Enever (Reds),
• Tom English (Rebels),
• Joel Faulkner (Reds),
• Matt Lucas (Waratahs),
• Jed Holloway (Waratahs),
• Sam Lane (Waratahs),
• Junior Rasolea (Force),
• Jordy Reid (Rebels),
• Ruan Smith (Brumbies),
• Ed Stubbs (Force); and
• Ben Volavola (Waratahs).
Skelton will play his final game for the National Academy against Junior Japan this Saturday, 23 March, at Canberra’s Griffith Oval at 4:00pm.
Name: William Skelton
Date Of Birth: 03/05/92
Place of Birth: Auckland, NZ
School: The Hills Sports High School, Seven Hills, Western Sydney
Junior Club: Wentworthville Magpies, West Sydney (rugby league)
Senior Club: Sydney University
Provincial Caps: 0