FITTER, STRONGER: Will Skelton has come back to the Waratahs match fit after a stint with UK club Saracens.
FITTER, STRONGER: Will Skelton has come back to the Waratahs match fit after a stint with UK club Saracens. YUYA SHINO

Skelton shows worth of off-season in England

RUGBY UNION: Waratahs lock Will Skelton says a stint at Saracens over summer opened his eyes to playing overseas but he still has aspirations to play for the Wallabies at the 2019 World Cup.

Skelton played seven games for the English giants on a short-term contract and is being targeted by Saracens for a permanent return to London when his ARU contract expires at the end of the year.

Based on a strong opening round performance for the Waratahs in their 19-13 win over the Force, Saracens' interest is no surprise.

Skelton scored the Waratahs' only try and led the Tahs with eight runs - based largely on the match-fitness the 140kg lock brought home from his Saracens stint.

The UK club are on record saying they'd love to have Skelton back and the talk in London is Saracens believe the 18-Test Wallaby will be joining them next year.

Skelton was coy when asked about the prospect on Saturday after the Waratahs game.

"We haven't spoken to them or anything. I have left it with my management but at the moment I am happy at home. I guess that stint opened my eyes to what there is out there," Skelton said.

"But the whole goal was to come back and be in the blue jersey, and eventually the gold jersey. So I am really loving my footy at the moment and provide all I can here."

Quizzed about the Wallabies' push for the 2019 World Cup, Skelton said he would "love to be part of that squad".

Conceivably, there is still time for him to potentially do both; play overseas and return before the World Cup.

Skelton said he'd benefited from playing through the southern hemisphere pre-season.

"I think if anyone played consistently through the off-season they'd improve in areas they wanted to," he said.

"For me I had the opportunity to play regular footy and some high-grade footy. To come back and hit the ground running, that was the plan. Last year I didn't play much footy at the Wallaby level so that's why we took that opportunity but I am looking to play a lot of rugby this year and take the rest when it arrives."

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson was impressed with Skelton, who he said was doing things already that he did not show in 2016.

"Will was excellent, three or four go-forward carries, good aggression, good leg drive," Gibson said. "

"Probably pushed a pass or two, wanting to show his skills. But certainly on that first evidence of his return, I like his attitude and his approach to the game. And he is clearly doing things he wasn't doing last season."

NSW were pleased to pocket the points in a scrappy win over the Force but the team said there was much to work on.

"We can still improve and that's the theme that we took out of it," Skelton said.

The Waratahs flew to Johannesburg on Sunday ahead of a clash with last year's finalists, the Lions. They also take on the Sharks in Durban on the trip.

Backs Bernard Foley, Cameron Clark and forwards Damian Fitzpatrick and Maclean Jones were added to the NSW touring party.

News Corp Australia

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