Bath Rugby Academy back-rower Will Skusel is thriving
Blessings can come in disguise – just ask Bath Rugby Academy back-rower Will Skuse, writes Tom Bradshaw.
After playing a part in England under-20s' Six Nations triumph last season, the versatile loose forward was overlooked for the summer's Junior World Championship.
While England's performance in South Africa fell short of expectations – they had to content themselves with a seventh-place play-off – Skuse knuckled down for a few extra weeks of pre-season training back at his club.
And his endeavours have paid off, with the 20-year-old appearing on all fronts for Bath this season – the Premiership, the Amlin Cup and the LV= Cup.
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Missing out on a seat to the junior version of the World Cup was a bitter pill to swallow at the time but Skuse admits that being overlooked spurred him on to step up from Academy member to first- team contender.
"It was obviously very disappointing not to be picked – I was upset but it's one of those things," said Skuse, who plays at number eight and blindside flanker.
"It didn't really faze me and I just worked harder in pre- season. It meant I had a few extra weeks working with the strength and conditioning department, and that definitely didn't hurt me."
Truro-born Skuse made just one appearance for Bath last term, coming off the bench against the Dragons in the LV= Cup.
But his form this season has been called "a godsend" by forwards coach Neal Hatley and has earned Skuse, pictured, a level of game-time that he had never imagined.
With Francois Louw having been away on two spells with South Africa, and with Carl Fearns and Ben Skirving sidelined by ankle and thumb injuries respectively, Skuse has stepped in.
He has notched up four Premiership appearances, as well as appearing in the two cup competitions.
"I've been a bit lucky with a couple of injuries and with Francois being away playing internationally," said Skuse.
"I definitely wasn't expecting to have played this many first-team games but opportunity has arisen and it's good that all my hard work is paying off.
"Rugby is one of those games where you've got to take the opportunities when they come. I'm happy to be putting a marker down and trying to retain my spot."
Skuse revealed that extra sessions with Danny Grewcock have helped propel him into regular first-team contention.
Academy director Grewcock knows all about the grit and edge needed to be a successful back-five forward at The Rec and Skuse says the former England lock has become a mentor.
"I've had a lot of help from Danny over the last 12 months," said the young gun. "He's looked out for the Academy players and done extras with us in training.
"Neal Hatley has also made a big impact with some of the younger players since he arrived in the summer. I definitely feel I'm a better player now than I was last year."