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Young Gun: Sam Skinner – Exeter and England U20s back row

Sam SkinnerSam Skinner always dreamed of a professional rugby career but he thought he’d missed the boat when he finished school in 2013 without being spotted by an academy.

He had set his sights on travelling the world on a gap year but a late growth spell encouraged him to give rugby one last go. He joined Taunton in National League Two South and went from there.

Ten games into last season, Exeter came knocking and offered him a contract to join their academy. He made his first-team debut in the LV=Cup against Gloucester earlier this season before facing Northampton in the Premiership two weeks ago. In February, he made his international debut for England in the U20s Six Nations.

“My plan at the start of the season was to get involved in training as much as I could and take each game as and when they came,” he told The Rugby Paper.

“I ended up playing three games in the LV=Cup and got my Premiership and European debut over the past two weeks which was very enjoyable.

“I didn’t have any specific target with Exeter but I did want to make the England U20s squad for the Six Nations which I did.

“It was a good experience to be involved in the Six Nations. I’d never played for England at age-group level so it was great to get my first cap.

“The squad has not been announced for the Junior World Cup but hopefully I’ll be on the plane and I can help England chase a third consecutive title.

“I’m still dual-registered with Taunton so when I’m not involved with the Chiefs or my university I get to play for them which is very nice after what they’ve done for me.

“I’ve got my exams to concentrate on right now but I’ll revaluate my rugby goals when the pre-season with Exeter comes. I’d like to be pushing for a regular place in the first-team next season.”

Starting rugby at five at Topsham RFC, Skinner grew up playing in the backs for his club but in the forwards for Torquay Grammar School. He is now looking to settle in the forwards and especially in the back row where Exeter see his future.

But not being involved with an academy until last season meant he was a few years behind when it came to strength and conditioning. Joining the Chiefs injured, he spent most of last season in the gym and is now reaping the benefits.

He added: “I was about four or five years behind boys my age when it came to S&C but I put on a lot of weight really quickly when I joined the Chiefs.

“That was one of the reason they put me into rehab. I wasn’t fully fit because of a tendinitis on my knee and I was a bit of a rake weighting in at 90kg and being 6ft 4in. I’m 105kg now and that suits my game even though I’m still looking to add a bit more weight.

“I grew up playing in the forwards as well as the backs but the Chiefs see me as a No.8 although they reckon a good way for me to break into the first-team is through the second row.

“So I’ve been spending a lot of time with Dean Mumm who took me under his wing. We’ve got a similar physique and we like to play the game the same way.”

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