Exeter Chiefs may have secured a historic European and domestic double over the past two weeks, but that has not been enough for some of their players to curry favour with England head coach Eddie Jones.
The national squad for the remainder of the Guinness Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup was announced on Monday, and only three Chiefs have made the 36-man contingent.
Man of the match in the Gallagher Premiership final on Saturday Henry Slade’s place in the squad was never in doubt, but the selection of Harry Williams and Jonny Hill is a just reward for the dominance Rob Baxter’s side have shown up front.
The 18-cap tighthead Williams could win his first cap in over a year, while the uncapped Hill has been touted as one of George Kruis’ successors in the second-row in white since it was announced the former Saracen was heading to Japan.
These selections are perhaps overshadowed by the non-selections however. The Simmonds brothers’ absence is the most glaring and questionable decision by Jones.
Andy Goode has not been the only person online to ponder what more either of them can do, and while that is a cliché that is possibly bandied about too often, it is apposite in this situation.
By simply looking at each player’s CV this season, they make a compelling case to be selected. The 23-year-old Joe has led the team to the double in the No10 shirt, while Sam was crowned European Rugby Player of the Year.
— Andy Goode (@AndyGoode10) October 26, 2020
Of course, receiving that individual honour does not guarantee England selection, as Alex Goode found out last year. In fact, since it was established in 2010, seven of the eleven POTYs have been English, but only two, Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell, were not pariahs of the team, albeit Jonny Wilkinson, Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon were all based in France.
Exeter fans are bemoaning Jones’ perceived predilection to favour clubs elsewhere in England. Fellow Premiership finalists Wasps saw four players called up after the weekend, with the uncapped fly-half Jacob Umaga and flanker Jack Willis being chosen alongside Joe Launchbury and Dan Robson.
Umaga has effectively beaten Joe Simmonds to the final No10 berth in the squad, while Willis has beaten Sam Simmonds. However, there would have equally been as much of an outcry had the Wasps flanker failed to make Jones’ cut after the season he has had.
Had England regulars Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jack Nowell not been injured, it is likely that five members of the Chiefs squad would be playing this autumn, which may have provided a better reflection of the Devonian side’s success.
Jones has never been one to kowtow to the fans’ demands though, and this is not the first time he has left swathes of people pulling their hair out. He has stood strong in the face of an avalanche of criticism in the past, but his record speaks for itself.
Sam, who won the last of his seven caps in March 2018, is just another player that is still to convince Jones since recovering from his ACL injury last year.
He is not the only in-demand player to miss out on being one of the seven back row options for England, as Harlequins’ Alex Dombrandt is another peripheral member of the set-up that has been overlooked.
Some may have had an inkling that there would be shocking omissions, but recent history obviously paints Exeter in a very good light, which is why some of Jones’ decisions have received such a backlash in the south-west.
Why aren't the Symonds brothers selected? I think Eddie has lost the plot if they don't get their chance during autumn series. How come there's more wasps players than Exe?
— Jon Peter Tomlin (@BigglesHound94) October 26, 2020
— Richard Thompson (@thomo2703) October 26, 2020
Well done @_jonnyhill – no mean feat getting in Eddie’s line up whilst being a Chief – go well!!
— RuckinRugby (@RuckinRugby) October 26, 2020
No place for the European Player of the year or a domestic & European double winning captain. Right……… #Clueless
— @ ?????? (@shakey18) October 26, 2020
Anyone know which team just won the double? Can’t work it out from this latest England squad ?
— Callum ? ? (@CallumCouch) October 26, 2020
is that said though gritted teeth?! congrats to the guys who well deserve to be there, but what on earth do @joesimmo10 and @samsimmonds_ have to do?! enjoy the rest boys, we’ll be pleased to have you playing for the #chiefs
— peter (@lovepeterlove) October 26, 2020
Eddie Jones doesnt like or rate Exeter. He only has eyes for Sarries. Such a muppet.
Well done Exeter.
— Steg (@StegStegy) October 26, 2020
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