'It beggars belief' - Steenson on Simmonds' England snub, retirement and Exeter's naked bus celebrations
Gareth Steenson has been having the time of his life in recent days, Exeter Chiefs wrapping up the delayed 2019/20 season by following up their Heineken Champions Cup final win over Racing with success in the Gallagher Premiership final last Saturday versus Wasps.
It’s the Devon club’s first-ever league and cup double, the amazing feat achieved just ten years after their initial promotion to the English top flight.
For Steenson, the 36-year-old who joined Exeter in 2008 when they were a Championship outfit, the outrageous success marks the end of his stellar playing career and he is now set to go into coaching.
He does so, though, bemused that Joe Simmonds, the 23-year-old out-half he helped nurture to take over as Exeter’s leading No10, has been snubbed by Eddie Jones for the England squad announced on Monday for the autumn series of Test matches which begin in Rome this Saturday.
Speaking during an appearance on the latest episode of The Rugby Pod, Steenson told hosts Andy Goode and Jim Hamilton that he was at a loss as to why Simmonds – and his old brother Sam – were ignored by Jones despite their title-winning contributions at Exeter.
Give it a watch ?https://t.co/npr63tITLf
— The Rugby Pod (@TheRugbyPod) October 27, 2020
“I really don’t know,” said Steenson. “The improvement we have seen in him [Joe Simmonds] over the last year or so, he is driving those guys, he is driving around British and Irish Lions around the pitch, he is winning doubles, he doesn’t miss kicks at goal, it beggars belief.
“I don’t understand why, or even why Sam is not in the squad either. The guys have performed every week at the top level consistently with the club and that is all you can ask them to do. When they are doing that, that is the only chance they have of getting in, so I’m hoping they get the opportunity at some point.
“I know Sam has done it [been capped by England in 2018] but for Joe, he is somebody who is going to push Exeter Chiefs on and this was just the start of him hopefully winning a few big trophies with the club.”
Steenson was speaking after a hectic few days of celebrations following the nerve-wracking win over Wasps, a triumph that resulted in Exeter leaving their hair down in trademark Chiefs fashion. “There was a wee bit of no clothes on at some point, a bit of a sing-song on the way home and stuff. It was really good fun, really special,” he admitted following a final where for the second Saturday in succession he was an unused replacement.
“I’d love to have got on the field but I was just so happy that we had won the game because it was so tight. It could have gone either way… it was sheer relief. The only thing that could have happened was if I had come on and maybe missed a tackle or something and conceded a try. It was definitely hard to watch,” he said, adding that he can’t imagine putting on the boots again.
“My time is done. You’d have to be really, really scraping the bottom of the barrel for me to come back out and play again. You never say never but just now, the way I feel physically, the end that I had, you can’t ask for a better end. I’m pretty happy with what I have achieved and I could definitely go into retirement a very happy man.”
"The Exeter changing room is a unique place, it was like no other changing room"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 24, 2020
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