He still cringes when he hits the scales but giant Wallabies lock Will Skelton reckons these days he is only feeling the weight of expectation.
The 22-year-old was all smiles when he signed a two-year ARU extension ahead of Saturday night’s Rugby Championship opener with South Africa in Brisbane.
Yet the 203cm Skelton admitted on Wednesday there were only frowns when he assessed his much publicised weight battle each day.
Technically, Skelton is 140kg – but he considers himself the same 148kg brute who first pressed his claims for the NSW Waratahs in 2013.
“You jump on the scale and look at how much you weigh and I sort of cringe,” Skelton said.
“I am probably the same weight as when I started but I am playing a lot longer and Cheik (Wallabies coach Michael Cheika) doesn’t mind about that.
“He is happy with the way I am playing at the moment and he just wants the best out of me.”
Yet Skelton reckoned he was finally on top of the weight issue that had preoccupied critics despite his increased game time for defending Super Rugby champions Waratahs.
“I have played a lot more minutes but I haven’t lost too much weight – I think I have gained more muscle,” said Skelton, who has already racked up eight Test caps.
Asked if criticism of his weight had bothered him, Skelton said: “No, people are always going to have opinions, and I respect that.
“I don’t mind what they say. I trust in my ability and how I play.”
Skelton reckoned he had turned the corner on his fitness issues despite the ARU not setting him up with an official dietitian.
“It’s a personal thing and it’s player driven,” Skelton said of the Wallabies’ approach.
“You just surround yourself with teammates with the same problem as you … (and) try to sleep early so you don’t have those cravings at night.”
Skelton’s re-signing is a significant boost to Australia’s forward stocks post-World Cup at a time when many Wallabies are taking up lucrative overseas contracts.
Skelton hinted that his maligned lineout skills needed serious development but backed himself to make a major contribution in the Wallabies pack on Saturday night.
Skelton said he was learning as much as he could from “lineout master” Rob Simmons in Wallabies camp ahead of the Springboks clash.
Scott Higginbotham shapes as the Wallabies No.8 this weekend ahead of Ben McCalman because he beefs up the ball winning at the lineout where Skelton battles.