Sam Skinner sees club-mate Jonny Gray as a help not a rival for Scotland role

Sam Skinner stepped off the bench to replace fellow Scotland lock Jonny Gray in Exeter’s European Champions Cup final win but he does not see his team-mate as a rival.

Sam Skinner joined up with the Scotland squad after helping Exeter Chiefs win the double. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Sam Skinner joined up with the Scotland squad after helping Exeter Chiefs win the double. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

The pair are vying for starting slots this weekend when Gregor Townsend’s side take on France in the Autumn Nations Cup, a match that will almost certainly decide who wins through to the final of the new competition.

Gray and Scott Cummings are likely to retain the second-row jerseys at BT Murrayfield on Sunday as Scotland try to equal their all-time record of six consecutive Test wins.

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The versatile Skinner can also play in the back row but is keen to nail down a role as lock.

Jonny Gray is a team-mate of Sam Skinner's for club and country. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

“I play in a few positions and I don’t want to be bracketed as that sort of player who is jack of all trades, master of none,” he said. “I’m trying to push for the second-row position.

“The guys ahead of me in that position at the minute are playing really well, and there’s a lot of competition in and around all positions, really. But I’m looking to go for the second row, and all I can do is keep trying to push when I get a chance to come off the bench.

“Gregor is happy with me, that’s what he said, and I’m happy where I am in the squad. But obviously I want to try and push myself as much as I can.”

Skinner’s excellent club season will have strengthened his case. As part of the all-conquering Exeter squad which won the top prizes in England and Europe his confidence is sky high - and the same can be said for his Chiefs team-mates in the Scotland squad, Gray, Stuart Hogg and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.

Exeter Chiefs celebrate their victory over Racing 92 in the Heineken Champions Cup final. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Skinner enjoys have Gray alongside him to push him on, even if the former Glasgow forward is blocking his path to a starting slot for club and country.

“To be honest, I’ve really enjoyed having him down at Exeter and we’ve got on really well,” said Skinner.

“I guess we kind of are competing for the same position, but it’s never really felt like that. We’re always wanting the team to do as well as possible. I can’t honestly sit here and say I feel like I’m competing with him, even though technically I am. I’ve definitely learned from his game and I’d like to think that we’ve had good discussions that have helped us both to push forward.”

Skinner came off the bench against France in March as Scotland won 28-17 and believes they can emulate that performance.

“We did our homework before we played that game and we had a physical presence, particularly in defence, that obviously unsettled them,” he said. “Naturally that will be our plan again, and when we get the chance to attack it’s about executing that in the right way and at the right time.

“I think that’s something we did well the last time we played them: when we got into the 22 we converted well. Most games are won in the same way aren’t they? It’s being strong in defence - and France have a lot of threats, we know that - and then making sure that when we get our chance to attack we’ve got to be clinical.”

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