Skirving hoping to seize opportunity
May 16, 2007
Ben Skirving will arrive in South Africa today following a whirlwind 24 hours that saw Johannesburg replace Stockport on his rugby travels.
Skirving, 23, had been preparing for England Saxons' Barclays Churchill Cup opener against the USA at Edgeley Park on Friday night when he was summoned to join the senior Test squad.
Gloucester flanker Peter Buxton's dislocated right thumb has handed the Saracens back-row prospect an unexpected opportunity as one of seven uncapped players in a severely-depleted tour party.
And he is determined to take whatever chance might come his way during the next 18 days as England prepare for battle with South Africa in Bloemfontein and Pretoria.
Skirving said: ``I heard on Monday there was a chance I would go on the tour, and I was put on standby for Pete.
``I am sorry he hasn't made it, especially as he has had a great season, but it is an opportunity I intend to take.
``I would like to get as involved as possible in the tour and do everything I can to put my name forward for the 22 in the two Test matches, but there is some strong competition in the squad.
``I have been on tour to South Africa before on a pre-season trip with Saracens, and I enjoyed the experience, so it is good to be going back.
``I am not setting myself any targets, especially not for the World Cup. We all have an opportunity to put our names forward for future selection, and it's up to each of us to try to take it.''
The odds are stacked against England though, with only eight of the squad having won 10 caps or more, suggesting the Springboks should encounter few problems securing a 2-0 series triumph prior to September's crunch World Cuppool clash in Paris.
England head coach Brian Ashton said: ``It is going to be an enormous challenge, as any two-Test series is against South Africa whenever you go out there.
``I will be looking for each player to play to his ability and expectation, and for some of those players to exceed that in both games.
``This is an interesting group of players, and I would be very surprised if they took a backward step in any area of the game.
``As far as I am concerned, damage limitation and Brian Ashton do not sit together.''
And as for South Africa gaining a possible advantage before the World Cup, Ashton added: ``The World Cup is going to be another game and another time.
``I have never been a believer in psychological blows six months before the World Cup begins.''
While England began acclimatising at altitude on South Africa's high veld, so the domestic transfer market continued to enjoy brisk business.
Barely 24 hours after confirming the arrival of Australian Test hooker Jeremy Paul from ACT Brumbies, Gloucester will today unveil Bradford Bulls rugby league star Lesley Vainikolo as their latest signing.
Departing Kingsholm though, is Wales international hooker Mefin Davies, who has agreed terms with Heineken Cup finalists Leicester, while Tigers have also swooped for Australian back-row forward Owen Finegan on a short-term deal from Leinster.
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