World Cup puts Will Skelton's Saracens future in doubt
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 29/05/19 10:01am
Saracens are resigned to losing Will Skelton during the World Cup in a development that would most likely result in his eventual departure from Allianz Park.
Skelton has enjoyed a stellar season after shedding over three stones, and the giant Australia lock is now a regular in the European champions' starting XV, resulting in the offer of a new two-year contract.
His form has caught the attention of the Wallabies, who are unable to pick him in their World Cup squad because his total of 18 caps falls well below the minimum level of 60 appearances required for the selection of overseas-based players.
Exeter's Nic White is in a similar position, but by agreeing to join an Australian Super Rugby side in 2020, he has become available for Japan 2019.
"Will has spoken to me about it," Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said of the club's players' player of the year winner.
"He is keen to play in the World Cup, but he is also keen to play for Saracens, which is quite complex.
"There hasn't been much contact from Australia but I think there will be and we want our players to play in the World Cup.
"For that to happen he probably has to sign longer term there, which is not what we want but if that is what Will decides, that is what he decides.
"Nic White has some arrangement. We haven't been approached yet, but you'd imagine that might suggest something like that."
Skelton has flourished to the point that Maro Itoje has been shifted to blindside flanker to accommodate him. England talisman Itoje admires his team-mate but insists that should he appear at the World Cup, friendship will be cast aside.
"When I see him play and I see him carrying and I see him hit people, I am happy he is on my side rather than the opposition," Itoje said.
"I've played against him before and that was when he wasn't in this type of shape. Even then he was a big deal to deal with. Now he has had a huge impact on the whole squad.
"He is in great form, he is truly in great form. But if he is playing for the Wallabies, unfortunately he will have to get chopped down like the rest of them."
Meanwhile, Saracens will give Brad Barritt every opportunity to prove his fitness for Saturday's Gallagher Premiership final after receiving encouraging news on the hamstring injury sustained against Gloucester.
Barritt lasted only 28 minutes of the play-off at Allianz Park and was considered highly unlikely to be involved in the climax to the season at Twickenham, but the damage is not as severe as first feared.
Nick Tompkins claimed a hat-trick as his replacement and will start against Exeter at inside centre if Barritt fails to recover, but McCall intends giving his inspirational club captain until the last minute to prove his fitness.
"To be fair to Brad we want to give him until the end of the week. With a hamstring injury he obviously can't train," McCall said.
"He'll be tested on Thursday to see where he's at and he could be ruled out then, but we might have to wait until we warm up on Saturday to see how it is. He does have a chance.
"We'll see, but we won't do something foolish that means Brad has to go off after one minute. That's not the situation we want to be in.
"But given who he is and the efforts he's made this year, it's fair to give him a few more days. It would be a lift to have him available."