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Dean Richards backs exiled Simmonds: 'If it was my England team then he would be there or thereabouts'

By Chris Jones

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Ex-Test level back row Dean Richards has entered the debate over the continued omission of Sam Simmonds from the England squad, revealing he would have picked the Exeter No8 for international duty and not discarded him as Eddie Jones has done.  

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Richards, the Newcastle director of rugby, is the latest former England No8 to air an opinion in favour of the inclusion of Simmonds. 

Lawrence Dallaglio also wants the Exeter player – this season’s leading Gallagher Premiership try-scorer with 13, seven more than any other player – to add his talents to a misfiring England attack that will try to break down a Guinness Six Nations French defence on Saturday masterminded by Shaun Edwards, the former Wales and Lions assistant coach.

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Simmonds won the last of his seven England caps under head coach Jones three years ago and Richards said: “It depends on what Eddie wants and how he wants to play and if they fall into that style of play. 

“He is picking accordingly and there is no doubt about it that people are shouting about how well Sam Simmonds is playing. If it was my England team then he would be there or thereabouts and not be discarded. But we are all different and play in different ways and so are our requirements in terms of players.”

Neil Back, the ex-England and Leicester openside, has taken a different view in the current debate, urging Simmonds to bide his time and earn the right to start at Test level through his performances for double champions Exeter Chiefs. 

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Back said: “You should excel at club level and probably only three or four Premiership plus two or three European Cup games a year are anywhere near international level. It’s the sum of the parts that count, which is down to the coach selection.

“If you’re not getting picked you have two choices: give up or work hard every day until you get your shot. At least you can look in the mirror knowing you didn’t fail through lack of effort. There is lots of competition in each position so lots of great players don’t get selected to play international rugby.

Just because your Premiership team is winning, not all players in that team will play Test rugby. Leicester finished eleventh in Premiership when four of their players started and one came off the bench for England in the World Cup 2019 semi-final with New Zealand, which was arguably England best-ever performance.”

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Dean Richards backs exiled Simmonds: 'If it was my England team then he would be there or thereabouts'

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