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'Bit annoyed': Exeter on how Simmonds has taken England rejection

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Exeter boss Rob Baxter has shed light on why Sam Simmonds was cut loose from the England squad for this weekend’s Autumn Nations Series opener versus Tonga at Twickenham. There was great optimism that the soon-to-be 27-year-old No8 was on the cusp of ending his near four-year spell without being capped for his country. Having toured with the Lions in the summer and played against the Springboks in the Test series decider on August 7, Simmonds was since welcomed back into the England fold by Eddie Jones.

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However, his ambition to play for an England team for the first time since he won his seventh cap in March 2018 will have to wait another week at least. Thirty-five players were called to England training at the start of this week but this number was reduced to 28 on Tuesday evening, leaving Simmonds with the prospect of playing for Exeter in the Premiership against Newcastle this weekend rather than running out at Twickenham with England and putting an end to his long wait for an eighth Test cap under Jones.  

Club coach Baxter held his weekly media briefing on Wednesday morning and he spoke about how Simmonds has reacted to his latest rejection by Jones and he touched on some of the suggested reasons why his player won’t be involved against the Tongans. “I have only just seen him this morning [Wednesday], he only got released last night,” said Baxter. “To me, he seems like probably a bit frustrated and a bit annoyed, which he should be. 

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“He wants to play so I expect those emotions but at the same time, he also looks like he completely understands what he wants to do this weekend and what he needs to do to give himself the best opportunity to be involved next week (against Australia).

“He will go back into camp on Sunday and he has got every opportunity to play next week. You have got to keep looking forward as an athlete and as a player. There is no point reflecting too long on this week, he has got to move forward to next week as quick as he can.

“Sam has had his review and I get the impression that Eddie Jones is actually pretty happy with him. From what Sam said he has trained well, it’s just he has missed out this time around but has every opportunity to play in the next couple of games (versus Australia and South Africa). I don’t think there is any major fault, it’s just time in the squad and some little improvements and work-ons within how England play. Sam has discussed it with me and has discussed it with Eddie and I don’t think there is any more than that.

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“I can’t tell you how Eddie Jones is looking at this series, I can’t tell you whether he has got any pre-planning based around how he is looking at combinations of players and I can’t tell you what he is seeing when he is watching the players train. Yes, I was expecting Sam to be involved but I can’t say any more than that really. 

“As head coaches and directors of rugby and selectors, we all look at different things and see different things and have different plans… For me, it is just one of those things. He is back, he has told me he is ready to play, ready to be involved this weekend, so we will probably look to involve him in some capacity. 

“Hopefully he understands that by performing well (for Exeter) he might have a better opportunity to get into the (Test) starting line-up than someone who is sitting on the bench for England this week. That is the reality, that is how it can work and that is very much how he has got to take it.”

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