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Lions bolter Sam Simmonds succeeds Jack Willis as RPA player of the year

By PA
(Photo by PA)

Lions bolter Sam Simmonds has collected another honour in his stellar season as the Exeter No8 has been crowned Rugby Players’ Association player of the year. Simmonds has enjoyed a standout campaign, setting a new record for tries scored in a Gallagher Premiership season after crossing 20 times and securing a place in the Lions squad bound for South Africa.

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The 26-year-old’s Lions selection comes despite being overlooked by England since winning the last of his seven caps in 2018. He follows in the footsteps of Wasps flanker Jack Willis in winning the award, which is voted on by players across the Premiership.

“This award, in particular, means a lot. The way that it is picked and the way you get nominated is from players that you play against every week and throughout the season,” said Simmonds, the 2019/20 Exeter double winner.

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“So for them to recognise and notice that I have been having a strong season is fantastic and I appreciate that. Once the season is over – hopefully after a few more wins – then I can look back both individually and as part of the team and feel good about what we have achieved.”

Marcus Smith, 22, was named young player of the year after his dazzling form helped Harlequins claim a place in the Premiership playoffs with two rounds of matches to spare. “It’s always nice to be honoured for individual awards, but a lot of the credit has to go to my teammates at Harlequins. 

They have made me look good this year and without the forwards, I couldn’t have done my job. To be voted for by fellow players who I play against week in week out makes it extra special and motivates me to win more individual honours in the future hopefully.”

Versatile England forward Poppy Cleall was named women’s player of the year.

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Turlough 54 minutes ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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