Sam Skinner will make his long-awaited debut for Scotland on Saturday after initially turning down the offer to tour with Gregor Townsend's side in the summer as he did not think he was ready for international rugby.
The 23-year-old, who plays for Exeter Chiefs, has been named in the second row alongside Grant Gilchrist for the Murrayfield Test against Fiji, with Jonny Gray in reserve on the bench.
It was announced a few weeks ago that former Topsham Junior, Sam Skinner, now a professional player with Exeter Chiefs, had been selected for the Scotland Squad for the Autumn Internationals and will be Topsham’s first full International player. The Exeter-born 23-year-old is a former England Under-20 international but qualifies for Scotland through his father, Peter, who was one of the first Junior Coaches at Topsham. Sam began his rugby career in the first Topsham mini section and played right the way through to the Colt Section.
Sam is a former Torquay Grammar School pupil and it was here that his rugby coach suggested that he aim his rugby sights high. Topsham stalwart Dave MacLellan contacted the coach of Taunton RFC, former Chiefs fly-half Tony Yapp, and Sam was invited up. He was asked to travel with the team, but an injury in warm-up propelled Sam to the bench from where he made a twenty minute impact substitution which earned Sam a contract at Taunton. Exeter Chiefs soon became aware of Sam’s ability and he was invited to train with them. In all, he has now made 43 appearances for the Chiefs, scoring four tries.
Sam read Economics at Exeter University and was Captain of the University team that won the DUCS trophy at Twickenham. He also played a number of times for England U20 and secured a number of shirts, France and The All Blacks, as souvenirs. He used these shirts to decorate the walls of his student digs but his last Topsham RFC shirt always took pride of place above them all. Sam has maintained his contact with Topsham and as recently as April last year he attended a Juniors Prize Giving evening.
Rob Baxter, Exeter Chiefs Director of Rugby, has said "He's very keen and determined to play for Scotland, they've been very positive with their approach to him, so it's going to be an interesting autumn for him."
Skinner's ability has not just impressed his coaches but also his teammates, according to club captain Jack Yeandle:
"He's shown since he arrived he's been a standout player that's progressed really well into the first team and he's now a very big part in what the team is about and what the culture is about.
"He's shown himself really well as a leader this year as well, and full credit to him, he's definitely earned it," he said.
From all his friends and admirers at Topsham RFC we wish our former player all the very best in his International Career with Scotland.