Skelton hails 'world class' Kerr-Barlow as La Rochelle face Montpellier

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Former New Zealand scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow will have a spring in his step after being hailed as "world class" by his La Rochelle team-mate Will Skelton when they face Montpellier in the latest round of Top 14 action this weekend.

Skelton heaped praise on Kerr-Barlow after he scored his first ever hat-trick of tries inside 26-minutes in the 59-17 whipping of Biarritz last weekend.

His contribution helped last season's French and European runners-up to secure their first win of the season.

"We were all giving him (Kerr-Barlow) stick because he came off at half time, he thought the game was done and he wasn’t injured," Skelton told AFP.

"I think he just pulled the handbrake.

"He's world class. His attention to detail, his work ethic, he's a massive part of our team."

Skelton -- who is presently serving a ban for "dangerous play" -- said the 31-year-old Kerr-Barlow had the ability to calm things down.

"He drives our forwards around and gives that direction when we get into chaos," said Skelton.

"He's a world class player and massive for this team.

"Scoring three tries was amazing. We had his missus' 30th birthday after and he thoroughly enjoyed that too."

Skelton believes too that former Ireland fly-half great Ronan O'Gara is settling into his role as director of rugby having been promoted following the departure of Jono Gibbes to rivals Clermont.

"I think he’s more of a voice in the club," said Skelton.

"Last year Jono (Gibbes) was the head honcho.

"Now ROG can do things his way.

"He's a great coach, he's trying to get the most out of the boys. That's all that we can do, follow who is the head, at the top.

"Hopefully he can lead us in the right direction."

- 'He's a beast' -

Skelton, who is hopeful of rebooting his Test career after reports Rugby Australia might be set to loosen eligibility rules on overseas-based players, says he and his team-mates have taken positives out of last season despite the anti-climactic finish.

"I really enjoyed it," said Skelton.

"Losing two finals are the last memories we had of the season but we made lots of memories during the season.

"We had some good highs, we enjoyed some really good away wins and some wins at home that come to mind.

"The losses in the finals were quite deep and something you have regrets over I guess.

"Hopefully we've learnt from those mistakes and we can put them into this season."

Toulouse -- who denied La Rochelle both the domestic and European titles last term -- top the table and travel to Biarritz on Saturday.

It will be the first outing for scrum-half Antoine Dupont since he was named Top 14 player of the year last Monday.

Dupont helped Toulouse to just their second league and European Champions Cup double last season.

Despite Dupont being La Rochelle's nemesis Skelton -- who was nominated for the award -- has nothing but praise for him.

"He's a quality player, all the boys were giving me stick 'Are you just going up to Paris (for the awards ceremony) to clap Dupont?' said Skelton.

"Which is fair enough because he's a beast."

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday

Brive v Stade Francais, Montpellier v La Rochelle, Perpignan v Pau, Lyon v Bordeaux-Begles (all 1300), Biarritz v Toulouse (1500), Castres v Toulon (1905)

Sunday

Clermont v Racing 92 (1905)

iwd/pi

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