One Percenters: Saracens' shock demise opens door for Will Skelton homecoming

by Beth Newman, Emma Greenwood and Iain Payten

The Saracens news could mean the return of a giant Wallaby, schedule changes could help the Junior Wallabies and Aussie rugby's glamour couple are getting hitched.

What's happening in the first One Percenters for 2020?

Skelton a big target following Saracens' relegation 

The Saracens salary cap scandal has opened the door for giant lock Will Skelton to return to Australia, and potentially even play for the Wallabies again as soon as July.

With Saracens to be relegated out from the Gallaghers Premiership for breaching the salary cap for the last three seasons - $A3.8 million over in 2019-2020 alone - the club will have to offload major stars from their roster.

To be promoted from the Championship, clubs have to prove they were compliant under the £7m Premiership salary cap.

Skelton is contracted through to the end of 2021 and doesn't have a relegation "get-out clause" (who would at Saracens?) but it is understood Sarries made it known to rival Premiership clubs they were open to letting the big lock go when trying to get under the cap earlier this month.

The Waratahs are extremely keen to get Skelton home but Rugby Australia would have to be heavily involved in a new contract, given the drastic spike in Skelton's price tag since he moved to England in 2017.


English sources say the 18-cap Wallaby is currently on around $A750,000 a year and it is believed that was the asking price when Wallabies coach Michael Cheika tried to get Skelton back last year ahead of the World Cup.

But English rugby pundits also say Skelton will also be the target of offers from other clubs in Europe, given his unique dimensions, dynamic impact in games and the fact he doesn't leave to play Test rugby throughout the year. 


Having shed weight since he left Australia in 2017, Skelton is down to about 130kg and has been a much-praised player in Saracens' success.

It is said to be 'early days' as far as discussions go but if a deal can be reached for Skelton to be released from Saracens and return to Super Rugby in 2021, that would qualify the 27-year-old to be eligible for the Wallabies this year.

The Wallabies play Ireland in July.

U20s shift opens door for Junior Wallabies

The Junior Wallabies will have access to all their big names in this year's World Rugby U20s championship as they look to better a runner-up finish from last year.

World Rugby announced the 2020 fixtures and dates for the World Rugby U20s championships this week, to be held in Verona in late June and July.

Interestingly, the competition kicks off after Super Rugby wraps up, meaning the Junior Wallabies should have full access to all of their biggest names.

In previous years, the U20s tournament has fallen midway through the Super Rugby season.

But despite the world under 20s championship falling outside the Super Rugby season, perhaps the bigger test will come in how many Junior Wallabies will leave their Super teams to play in the Oceania under 20s in late May. 

Last year, Rugby Australia instituted a new threshold that saw youngsters such as Isaac Lucas join the Junior Wallabies for Oceania instead of playing for the Reds, based on a formula involving Super minutes played, under 20s history and other factors.

With a full roster, the Junior Wallabies had a far longer preparation and beat New Zealand in the Oceania tournament, which served as the platform for subsequent success at the world 20s.

Previous campaigns saw star players unsuccessfully parachuted late into the Junior Wallabies for the under 20s world championship and though the calendar makes it possible in 2020, there'll no doubt be a desire to avoid returning to those days.

Some of the returning stars for the Junior Wallabies this year include Angus Bell, Will Harris and Mark Nawaqanitawase.

Jordy Petaia is still young enough to play but he's likely to be in the Wallabies plans for July.

The 2020 World under 20s tournament kicks off at the end of June, with Australia facing the Kiwis, Georgia and Wales in their tournament pool.

The Junior Wallabies will open their campaign against Georgia on Monday June 29 before taking on New Zealand on Saturday July 4 and Wales on Thursday July 9.

FIXTURES

World Rugby U20s Championship

All times AEST.

Monday June 29, 5am - Australia vs Georgia

Saturday July 4, 12am - Australia vs New Zealand

Thursday July 9, 5am - Australia vs Wales

No margin of error for Sevens in Hamilton

Australia's men's Sevens will be put to the test in the new cut-throat format to be used in Hamilton and Sydney in the next fortnight.

With the Australasian tournaments running men's and women's competitions concurrently over two days, World Rugby made the decision to abolish the quarter-final stages.

While in the women's draw, the best runner-up can still sneak into the semis, for the men the equation is to top your pool or miss out on finals entirely.

"There's not really any time to drop any games or you can't afford to be sluggish through the first three games," Aussie Sevens captain Nick Malouf said.

"We're just going to focus on game one - we've done plenty of homework on the three sides that we're facing and we're going to know exactly how we want to play so it's just about executing that.


Aussie Sevens coach Tim Walsh said the team had focused on solving problems in games better since a disappointing 11th place finish in Cape Town but their progress would undergo a "baptism of fire" in the new format.

"The true test for the team is maintaining form and when things are going wrong how do you react to it," he said.

"In reality we're not going to be winning every game from now until whenever, it's going to be ups and downs and it's how we react to that, how we shift momentum, hold on to momentum and that's our real focus this season.

"We know when we play really well other teams really struggle with that but we need to do that consistently and we need to finsd a way when hings aren't going that well to shift momentum and build pressure.

"I feel the team is at a maturity level where guys were between 10 and 15 caps are now at 20-30 and that's a big step up as a player, where you mature and the majority of those boys arein that now."

Sevens power duo make it official

Sevens power couple Lewis Holland and Charlotte Caslick are set to tie the knot.

The pair have been together for more than five years and already share property but this weekend, they revealed plans to put rings on it.

Both posted to Instagram with the news and had plenty of well wishers sending their congratulations.

Better together. 🤍

A post shared by Charlotte Caslick (@charlottecaslick) on


Crusaders make winning start in trials

A six-tries-to-three effort helped them get over the top of the Wellington outfit with neither side sustaining any major injuries.

There was also good news for the Chiefs this weekend with Damian McKenzie making it through his injury return without any stumbles.

The Blues toppled the Chiefs in that match but they will be sweating on an injury to playmaker Otere Black.

Black damaged a rib and exited the game early but is expected to be fit for the Blues' round one clash in just under a fortnight.

FOX to show Super launch special

The 2020 Super Rugby season is less than a fortnight away and on Sunday, Rugby AU announced plans for a multimedia season launch.,

Rather than gathering captains at a central location as they have done in previous years, FOX SPORTS will be the focal point for a launch that spans across the east coast.

FOX SPORTS will host an hour-long season preview show, featuring interviews with Raelene Castle and new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, and live crosses to the Reds and Waratahs in Dalby and the Rebels and Brumbies in Albury.

The show will air on FOX Sports News 500 at 2pm AEDT and will be repeated later in the day.