Arnold ready to 'lock horns' with fellow Wallaby Skelton in Top 14 play-offs

·3-min read

Toulouse's Australia second-row Rory Arnold said he is looking forward to hosting a fellow Wallaby Test lock in La Rochelle's Will Skelton when they meet in the French Top 14's play-offs on Saturday.

Arnold, 31, was replaced by 30-year-old Skelton in all three of the Wallabies' November internationals last year after first being involved together in the Green and Gold in 2016.

"I've known Will for a number of years now. Off the field he's a really nice guy but on the field he's a big lump and likes to play on the edge," Arnold told AFP on Thursday.

"He's a physical sort of player. Two different contrasts on and off the field. We'll see what happens when we lock horns this weekend."

Arnold's side are unbeaten against this weekend's visitors to Stade Ernest-Wallon since September 2019, a run which included last term's Top 14 and European Champions Cup finals.

This season champions Toulouse were knocked out of Europe by Leinster in the last four, but La Rochelle won the tournament by beating the Irish province late last month.

"The way they play their rugby is with their forwards, that big power rugby, they like to play on the front foot with them. They did that in the final of the European Cup, and it worked well for them," Arnold said.

"If we can shut their big ball carriers down that goes a long way to getting the result but we know we have to play well to go one step closer."

On Sunday, Australia head coach Dave Rennie names his squad for July's three home Tests against England, but Arnold is unlikely to feature with the Top 14 season stretching onto late June.

Additionally, Rennie announced this week that Quade Cooper, Marika Korobeite and Samu Kerevi would be his Giteau Law picks, as they play abroad, for the series.

- 'Out on a high' -

Arnold, who plays alongside twin brother Richie in the south of France, said he still hopes to feature for his country, especially with the 2023 Rugby World Cup on the horizon.

"I'd love to be in that environment and that group," Arnold said.

"I'm only getting older but I'm still keen to play international rugby and if called upon I'll definitely put my hand up."

Arnold, who stands 2.08m (6ft 8in) tall, is set to leave the record 21-time French champions for an unnamed Japanese franchise at the end of the campaign.

"You want to go out on a high wherever you play," he said.

"It's been an up and down season. It was disappointing not to go a little closer in the European Cup, but the Top 14 hasn't been too bad.

"We're in the final six now, we're only a couple of wins away now, it's all about playing our best rugby this weekend and see how we go," he added.

In the weekend's other play-off, Bordeaux-Begles welcome Racing 92 after missing out on a direct place in the semi-finals after failing to beat lowly Perpignan last weekend.

Fixtures (times GMT)

Saturday

Toulouse v La Rochelle

Sunday

Bordeaux-Begles v Racing 92 (both 1905)

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