SCOTLAND international forward Sam Skinner will join Edinburgh from Exeter Chiefs ahead of next season on a deal with an undisclosed contract length.
The 26-year-old has been capped 15 times since making his international debut against Fiji in November 2018, and that number would almost certainly have been higher had he not suffered a serious hamstring injury during Scotland’s 2019 World Cup warm-up match against France, which ruled him out of the tournament and the start of the 2020 Six Nations.
Significantly, Skinner – who is equally comfortable playing in the middle and the back rows of the scrum – will bring the experience of being a key squad member at one of the most successful clubs in Europe in recent years. Exeter won the English Premiership title in 2017, they were runners-up in 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2021, and they completed a league and European Champions Cup double in 2020.
Skinner’s unveiling comes less than a week after it was announced that fellow second-rows Jamie Hodgson and Marshall Sykes have signed contract extensions with Edinburgh, and that Ben Toolis will leave the club to move to Japan in the summer, as Mike Blair’s squad for next season begins to take shape.
However, there is uncertainty over the status of Grant Gilchrist, who signed a contract extension in December 2018 which runs until the end of this season, and there has been no recent updates on that front.
The other two second-rows currently on the books are Glen Young, who hasn’t played a game since his summer switch from Harlequins due to a pectoral injury, and Pierce Phillips, who has made three appearances since joining from Agen.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that Bristol Bears have their eye on Edinburgh No 8 Viliame Mata as a replacement to Nathan Hughes. Mata signed a contract extension with Edinburgh in January, but the length of that deal – as is now the established protocol – was not disclosed.
“I’m massively excited to make the move north next season,” said Skinner, who was at open-side flanker for Exeter during Saturday night’s Champions Cup pool stage defeat to Glasgow Warriors. “The URC is an extremely competitive league and I’m really looking forward to testing myself in a new environment with a great group of lads.
“I want to challenge myself and grow as a player and Edinburgh is the perfect place to do that. I can’t wait to get stuck in, help the club to success while really experiencing Edinburgh and Scotland.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Mike [Blair]. I obviously worked with him for a period of time at Scotland and I like how he communicates and connects with players, while motivating them at the same time. He has Edinburgh playing an exciting brand of rugby and I believe it will suit my own playing style too.
“Having spoken to a lot of the boys at Scotland, there seems to be a really strong culture at the club, while it’s an exciting time with the new stadium, which I’ve heard has been fantastic so far with a brilliant atmosphere.
“I can’t wait to get started next season. It’s such an exciting time for Edinburgh Rugby and I’m really looking forward to being part of the journey moving forward.”
A product of Torquay Boys’ Grammar School, Skinner finished his secondary studies in 2013. He featured for National League Two South side Taunton Titans in 2014 – a period in which he was involved in the then Scottish Exiles (now Scottish Qualified) programme – before he was picked up by the Chiefs in the 2014-15 season.
He became an increasingly prominent part of the Exeter squad as it became a major force in England and on the European stage during the next five years.
As well as being part of the Exeter Chiefs squad, Skinner has, for the last few years, combined his work at Sandy Park with studying for a degree at the University of Exeter – whom he captained to BUCS Championship success in 2016 – achieving a first in business and economics.
“We’re absolutely delighted to secure the signature of a player of Sam’s quality and reputation,” said Edinburgh head coach Blair. “His signing really adds to what we’re building at the club, and I’ve got no doubt supporters will enjoy watching him pull on the Edinburgh jersey at DAM Health Stadium.
“He is a proven winner, while at 26-years-old he still has plenty of years ahead of him to develop and grow as a player.
“I’ve obviously worked with Sam during my time with the national team, so I’ve seen first-hand how dedicated he is to his craft, while his leadership and experience will bring added strength and depth to what is an already exciting forward pack.
“We’re really looking forward to welcoming Sam to the club next season and I’m sure he’ll be relishing a new and exciting challenge at Edinburgh Rugby.”