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England explain six/two bench split that ends Simmonds' long wait

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

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Sam Simmonds is finally a giant step closer to winning his first England Test cap since March 2018, Eddie Jones opting for a six-two forwards/backs split on his Twickenham bench for this Saturday’s Autumn Nations Series clash with the Wallabies. Having appeared off the bench for the Lions in their recent Test series decider versus the Springboks, Simmonds was left disappointed when he was cut from the England squad for last week’s match versus Tonga.


Exeter coach Rob Baxter reported at the time: “To me, he [Simmonds] seems like probably a bit frustrated and a bit annoyed, which he should be. 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.

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“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.”

The 27-year-old Simmonds has now been rewarded for his patience as he is the beneficiary of the decision by Jones to switch from a five/three forwards/backs England bench split to a six/two split for the clash versus the Wallabies, joining fellow back-rower Alex Dombrandt among the replacements behind the starting combination of Courtney Lawes, Sam Underhill and Tom Curry. “We think it is going to be a pretty high volume game, which it usually is against Australia,” explained the England coach. 


“A lot of work in the forwards and with Sam Simmonds and Dombrandt, they give us flexibility and variety in terms of their skills and we believe they will add to the mix in the last 20 minutes of the game. I have been involved in I don’t know how many Australia-England at Twickenham, but they always seem to fall in the last 20 minutes and I don’t think this game will be any different.   

“This England game is always one of the most awaited games of the season. I know as an Australian it is probably hard for the English to understand what an important game this is for Australia. It doesn’t matter whether it is Olympics, Test cricket, rugby league, this is the game that defines their season.

“We know the Australian side had a great run recently, they won five in a row (before losing to Scotland) and they are playing some really good rugby under Dave Rennie. A number of the staff that have worked with me are on his staff so they will be very well prepared, good people involved there and this is a game (where) they don’t go away. 

“This is the game they want to win. We have a bit of an inferiority complex against the English, the Australians, so they will want to take us to where they want to. For us, it’s another step in our progression. We have got a young developing side here, we really like the look of the team. We have added two new caps in Raffi Quirke and Bevan Rodd and so we have had a great preparation and we are looking forward to this very, very tough contest we are going to have.”


Jones added what has impressed him about the uncapped Rodd before commenting on what Marcus Smith might bring to the contest as the starting England No10. “We have always looked at him [Rod] as a young developing prop. We looked at him on the summer tour, brought him into the squad, he has gone back to Sale, played well at the start of the season. He is a good scrummager, a very good defensive player and he has got an unbelievable desire to want to keep getting better.

“Marcus knows he has got to build his game. I have been really impressed since I started working with him on a daily basis since the summer tour. He is progressing in a nice way but it is his biggest Test. He hasn’t played a tier-one country yet.”









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