Sam Skinner is encouraged by Scotland’s squad depth ahead of the World Cup, even though it is making it far harder for him to nail down a starting place.
The 28-year-old Edinburgh lock had to be patient for game time in the Six Nations, but, after the suspension of Grant Gilchrist and injury to Richie Gray, he eventually got his first start, and his 25th cap, in the final match against Italy last Saturday.
Skinner feels there is intense competition for places in every position within the squad and believes it bodes well for the Scots’ World Cup prospects in France in the autumn.
“It’s always a privilege to get a start for Scotland, I loved it,” he said. “It’s an extremely competitive position which is great because it’s driving me on to get better and hopefully I’m challenging the other guys to get better as well. We’re all just fighting tooth and nail to try and get that shirt.
“Squads win championships and World Cups etc, so we’ll need four or five players competing for each position, and we’ve got that which is awesome.
“You could argue that’s not always been the case for Scotland, but we’ve got a squad that is just so strong. It’s brilliant but it also means we’ve got to deliver. There is more pressure now.”
Mainstays like Ali Price and Chris Harris found themselves out of the team for most of the Six Nations, with Ben White and Huw Jones stepping in, and Skinner believes it is a sign of Scotland’s overall quality that nobody’s position is safe.
He feels it is important that Scotland have a group of players who will not rock the boat if they find themselves out of the team.
“It shows that if you play well, you can get selected,” he said. “No-one’s sitting pretty at all. Nobody just can assume they’re going to start at the World Cup based on their performances so far. The squad could change again. That’s how competitive it is, which is what you want.
“We’ve got a really healthy environment from the coaching set-up to the playing squad. It’s tough when you don’t get selected and almost everyone will have had that at some point in their career.
“We’ve got a competitive squad that’s trying to fight for titles and that’s awesome. You want to be in a squad that’s competing at the top as opposed to at the bottom.
“Everyone understands that selection might not go your way sometimes. It’s tough to take, but it’s just the nature of it. It’s challenging, but I think we’ve got a really healthy environment where people get on with it pretty well. They take the evening to digest it and then get stuck right in.”
With Gilchrist, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray and Scott Cummings also in the mix for a spot in the second-row, Skinner knows he faces a fight to make sure he is named in the final squad for France.
“It’s massive, it’s my purpose in rugby,” he said when asked what it would mean to him to be included. “I’m part of two amazing sides at the moment, Edinburgh and Scotland, and I’ve got to make sure I’m still part of two amazing sides come the summer.”