Chris Robshaw has given his take on fellow back row Sam Simmonds’ absence from Eddie Jones’ England squad, saying he “doesn’t fit the jigsaw” because of his size.
The former England captain was a guest on RugbyPass Offload this week, joining Christina Mahon and Jamie Roberts from Las Vegas, where he is based while playing for the San Diego Legion.
After England’s poor showing at the Guinness Six Nations, the topic of Simmonds’ omission from the squad was raised, as it continues to be one of the decisions that Jones is questioned over the most.
The Exeter Chiefs No8 won the last of his seven caps in the 2018 Six Nations, playing in a back row alongside Robshaw. He suffered a long-term ACL injury later that year, and has never made an England squad since, despite being named the 2020 European player of the year after winning the domestic and European double with the Chiefs.
Robshaw shared what Simmonds’ coach Rob Baxter has said in the past, that the 26-year-old is not the size of a stereotypical Test No8, but still feels there is a place for the Exeter man in an England squad.
“He’s the form player, he’s playing well, but he doesn’t fit the jigsaw,” the 66-cap Englishman said.
“Every coach has a jigsaw in front of them and every player is a piece. Sometimes your piece fits and other times it doesn’t and maybe your piece fits a different coach. Down at Exeter they love him and he plays well.
“I think with Sam there’s a perception because he’s not 130kgs and 6’4 that he can’t mix with the big boys. But you look how powerful he is and you look at when he goes up against the likes of Toulouse, their pack is monstrous, and he is making gain line after gain line and making inroads and knocking people back. Sometimes perception plays on people’s minds I think, what certain people look like or do they fit the mould, but I would have loved to see him in there.
“Personally, when they’re playing well, I still think the best back row is the [Tom] Curry, the [Sam] Underhill and the [Billy] Vunipola, however I would love to see Sam Simmonds on the bench for the last 20 or 30 minutes. The game has opened up, tired bodies out there, I think he would be brilliant.”
“He’s got good footwork, he’s powerful in the contact, but he doesn’t look 6’4 and 130kgs, I honestly think that is the difference.
Simmonds has amassed 14 tries in the Gallagher Premiership this season, six more than his nearest rival.https://t.co/o0DcxjKptk
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 8, 2021
“When people say “I want an international No8,” you look at Vunipola, [Taulupe] Faletau, Duane Vermeulen, Kieran Read, these types of guys who are all that kind of build. But you look at Ben Earl can sit on the bench and he can cover all three positions, so why can’t someone like Sam Simmonds come on?
“Because he has had some international experience, he has had that taste, I think that is sometimes more frustrating as a player. You’ve had that taste, you want to be back there, you know everyone is saying “you should be playing, you should be playing,” and it is tough not to get drawn into that.”
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