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'He is bang on form': Exeter boss weighs in on Simmonds-Dombrandt debate

By PA
(Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

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Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter wants Sam Simmonds’ form to earn him an England chance in the Six Nations.

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Simmonds marked his 100th game for the club with a hat-trick of tries in the Chiefs’ 37-26 Champions Cup defeat away to Montpellier.

Simmonds’ exploits came two days after his main rival for the England No 8 shirt in the Six Nations, Alex Dombrandt, picked up the man-of-the-match award in Harlequins’ dramatic home win over Castres.

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Baxter revealed the Exeter game plan had been built around trying to get Simmonds over the line as often as possible.

“We spoke during the week about creating a game that would get Simmo over the try-line a few times. We were joking about him getting four or five and when he had three in 50 minutes we started thinking it might happen,” said Baxter.

“Unfortunately that wasn’t to be. It was still a great occasion for him, just slightly spoiled by the end result.

“He is bang on form and playing very, very well. I hope he gets some recognition with England now, although it is going to be a difficult decision for Eddie Jones to make between him and Alex.

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“But that’s what you want as a coach, players knocking each other over with man-of-the-match performances trying to prove a point. I don’t think Eddie will be too disappointed about that.”

Simmonds’ hat-trick took his try tally in this season’s tournament to seven and his Exeter total to 75 in 100 games.

“First of all I’m very proud to have played 100 games for the Chiefs. Five or six years ago I’d never have said I’d play five or 10 games, so it’s a massively proud moment for me,” said Simmonds.

“But ultimately it was a disappointing performance and result. We knew with the side that Montpellier put out that they would come at us early and we probably started the better by scoring early.

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“We just couldn’t handle, for whatever reason, what they hit us with early on. They’re a good side, but it’s mostly down to the way we defended, they just got too much momentum.

“That’s the group stages done and we’re into the last 16 now. We’ll park that for a little bit because we’ve got to get back to the Premiership.”

The Chiefs will face Munster home and away in the round of 16, while Montpellier’s reward for reaching the top eight in Pool A is a head-to-head clash with English champions Harlequins.

Simmonds added: “It doesn’t get much bigger than home and away games against a team like Munster. We played them a couple of years ago and probably didn’t put in our best performance.”

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