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England explain long-awaited Simmonds recall, first Lynagh call-up

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Bob Bradford/CameraSport via Getty Images)

Eddie Jones has explained why he has finally chosen Lions back-rower Sam Simmonds in his 45-strong England training squad as well as issuing a first call-up for the uncapped Louis Lynagh. There has been for some time now a public campaign to get Simmonds, the record-breaking Premiership try-scorer, back into England fold for the first time since 2018 while Michael Lynagh, the legendary Wallaby, had questioned earlier this year why the RFU never sounded out his son regarding his future international plans.  


England boss Jones steadfastly remained loyal throughout the 2020/21 season to first-choice No8 Billy Vunipola even though he appeared out of form while Simmonds was consistently generating headlines on a weekly basis for the excellence of his performances at Exeter. 

It seems the more there was a clamour for Simmonds to earn a call-up, the more Jones rigidly stuck by Vunipola but that favouritism has now been revoked as the Exeter forward, who was chosen by Warren Gatland to tour with the Lions in South Africa, has been included for next week’s mini-training camp. 

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This has come at the expense of Vunipola despite Mark McCall claiming last week that the Saracens player was “as fit as I have seen him” following a busy pre-season on the training ground. 

Asked by RugbyPass why the time was now right to restore Simmonds to an England squad he has not been involved in for three-and-a-half years, Jones replied: “We asked him to go away and look at his game and he has been progressing well. 

“He did that last season and therefore he has got an opportunity to put his best foot forward. He has improved parts of his game, particularly how hard he is over the ball. He has improved that aspect of his game and he is also finding the ball a bit more in unstructured play. There has been some nice development in his game.”


Meanwhile, it was last June, in the wake of Lynagh’s title-winning try-scoring performances with Harlequins, that his father queried what the RFU were up to regarding potential England players as the 20-year-old was eligible for three countries: England through residency, Australia through his famous father and Italy through birth.

Lynagh tweeted: “Qualified for England, Australia and Italy. Italy and Australia have contacted him within the last fortnight. The RFU/England Rugby have NEVER spoken to him about his intentions and goals. Strange, given that the now head of rugby once flew from Italy to ask a 17-year-old to commit to Italy.”

Some days later, ahead of the Test match versus the USA, Jones dismissively responded to the Lynagh social media post. “I’m not aware of the tweet and I am only here to talk about players who have been selected,” he said. The England coach had a very different stance on Tuesday morning, though, when Lynagh became one of eight uncapped players included in the latest squad. 

“He has a string of solid performances now. He has got good acceleration, he has got good power, he finds the line, he had got to find the ball a bit more. We chatted about that yesterday [Monday], and he has got youth. He has got that enthusiasm to improve. Based on his performances for Harlequins he deserves to be looked at so we will have a look at him.”


Jones’ selection, which also saw the omission of Mako Vunipola, George Ford and Jamie George on form, was effectively a line being drawn in the sand two years out from the 2023 World Cup in France, the tournament now hugely colouring the Australian’s thought process. 

We are building a team towards the World Cup and at a World Cup you want to have a nice balance between experienced players and young, fresh, enthusiastic players who can add to the squad so it is part of the process,” he said.

“We have got five campaigns to the World Cup and our goal is to win the World Cup. Each campaign we want to get a little bit better and we understand the expectation for England is always to win, so we fully embrace that expectation and that is what we want to do. But at the same time, we have got to have a longer-term view about where we take the team and so we will have both of those in mind.  

“It’s an exciting time for the squad two years from the next World Cup. Almost after the Lions tour, you draw a bit of a line in the sand because then you are in the last two years before the World Cup and everything you do counts. We have a mini-camp starting on Sunday and it is an opportunity for the 45 selected players to put their best foot forward. 

“The camp will be more about administration than training but we will get to see where the players are. It’s a nice mix of experienced players and young players and players who did well in the summer and it is a chance for us to build the team for the World Cup so we are all ready to go. New coaching staff, so it’s a good time for the team to start moving forward again.”




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