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Major boost for La Rochelle as star second row Will Skelton returns from injury in crucial Top 14 win

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La Rochelle's Will Skelton (L) is tackled by Leinster's Devin Toner

La Rochelle's Will Skelton (L) is tackled by Leinster's Devin Toner

La Rochelle's Will Skelton (L) is tackled by Leinster's Devin Toner

La Rochelle have been handed a major boost ahead of next weekend's Champions Cup final against Leinster after second row Will Skelton made his return from injury.

Ronan O'Gara's side hosted Stade Francais in the Top 14 on Saturday knowing that a win was badly needed to keep their playoff hopes alive. Even though O'Gara opted to rest the majority of his starters ahead of the Champions Cup final, his side still delivered a crucial 32-13 bonus point victory at the Stade Marcel Deflandre.

As well as securing five points, La Rochelle received a big injury boost as Australian Skelton was able to feature off the bench following his lay-off with a calf problem. The Wallaby international played for 13 minutes, banking valuable on-pitch time ahead of next weekend.

Skelton's appearance on the bench to begin with was unexpected, with the behemoth not initially named in the 23-man squad.

Speaking on Off The Ball last weekend, O'Gara had all but ruled Skelton out of featuring against Stade Francais.

“No, he won't be playing this weekend anyway unless... I have a medical meeting at lunch time today,” O'Gara said.

“It's a day-by-day process with Will. He's a very important player for this group, for what we want to do in Europe, for what we want to do in the Top 14.

“I have spoken to him. I told him I expect to see him in pre-season, but I don't think he accepts that, so we will wait and see.”

Leinster have struggled to deal with Skelton in the past, with the Australian playing a major role in Saracens' victory in the 2019 Champions Cup final, and for La Rochelle in last season's semi-final triumph.

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