Wallabies’ giant Will Skelton has been selected for the Barbarians and will test out England in an emotional match before their tour to Australia.
Skelton, who scored one of his only two Test tries for the Wallabies at Twickenham eight years ago, will start in the Baa-Baas’ second row on Sunday alongside former England international George Kruis, who’ll be playing his last game.
And Skelton’s selection has left the invitation side’s French coach Fabien Galthie wondering why the big man isn’t more of a regular fixture still for the Wallabies.
Skelton and Kruis were teammates at English club Saracens, with Six Nations-winning coach Galthie believing their rekindled partnership will be a fitting way for the 45-times capped England World Cup finalist to bow out.
“Will is big and good and clever. I don’t know why he is not an international player now – maybe they manage players in their country, and overseas maybe not – but in this case it is an opportunity for us because Will wanted to play with George Kruis,” said Galthie.
“It is like a present for George because they played at Saracens years ago. It is a nice story.”
Skelton did feature with a 19th cap for Australia in the loss to Scotland at Murrayfield last November, his first appearance in the green and gold for five years.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie was only able to name three overseas based players for the series against England, and opted for Japan-based Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete.
Earlier this week, Skelton said it hurt not to be selected but he understood the reasoning.
“It’s something I always look forward to,” Skelton said of playing for the Wallabies on the RugbyPass Offload podcast.
“I obviously played in November and I haven’t had much contact after that. I think I spoke to Rens a week after we broke up and I haven’t had much contact.
“In my head I had an inkling that they’d pick those Japanese boys – the season’s aligned with Super Rugby and the Japanese league and with us having such a long season I know from the chats that we had in November they were almost not going to pick us.
“It hurts not to be selected but that’s life and it’s nothing you can control.”
The 30-year-old La Rochelle lock, who at 140kg and 2.03m tall remains one of the biggest players in the professional game, will be a formidable opponent for the home side, who are honing their final preparations before coach Eddie Jones names his touring squad.
Skelton last month led La Rochelle to a 24-21 win against Leinster in the European Champions Cup Final in Marseille, in which he was outstanding.
Australian Jones, defending an unbeaten coaching record for England against the Wallabies, will be hoping to stretch his sequence to 11 straight wins over his home country by winning the July series 3-0.
Kruis and Skelton will be part of a team dominated by stars from France’s grand slam-winning squad.
French players make up 10 of the starting line-up, with captain Charles Ollivon back in international action after being sidelined during the championship with injury.
The only other representatives are Fiji’s Levani Botia and Georgia pair Beka Gigashvili and Davit Niniashvili, all of whom play their club rugby in France. There are also eight French players on the bench.
Galthie, who has led a training camp in Monaco this week, said: “It has been a good experience for us.
“We have 19 French players, so we are the British Barbarians with a French accent!”