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Sam Simmonds breaks silence on quitting Exeter for Montpellier

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Bob Bradford/CameraSport via Getty Images)

Sam Simmonds has explained why he is quitting Exeter for Montpellier next season, a move that will prevent him from being selected by England after the 2023 World Cup in France. With Zach Mercer, the Top 14 final man of the match last June, exiting to join Gloucester for the 2023/24 Gallagher Premiership campaign, the reigning French champions had a big hole to fill in their back row.

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They have now quickly filled it by snapping up Simmonds, the 2021 Lions tourist who played seven times last season for England but missed the Australian tour through injury. The No8 is currently in London with Exeter clubmates Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell and Patrick Schickerling at the three-day England training camp ahead of the November internationals and the 27-year-old has now explained his thinking about his switch to the French league next season.

“I know my decision will stop my England ambitions, but there is still a long way to go this season. Right now, I will be doing everything in my power to play well for Exeter and whatever happens with selection after that, I’ll know I have done my best to try and be included,” Simmonds told the Exeter Chiefs website.

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“Making the move away from Exeter was a tough decision for me, but I’m fully focused on playing well for the club this season. The love I have for this team and for the club as a whole, it wasn’t easy but there comes a time when you have to make big decisions.

“In the past, I have stayed here but now this is an exciting move for me. I’ve got a young family and the move really appeals to me. It’s a new challenge and I have always spoken about how as you get older, you have to try new experiences. I’m a Devon boy, who has only lived in Devon, but I want to go out with a bang at Exeter and keep pushing hard for England.”

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Simmonds made his first start of the Premiership season in last Saturday’s loss at Sale. “We’re frustrated with the outcome,” he added ahead of this Friday’s trip to Bristol. “The first 20 minutes we put real pressure on them, kept the ball and showed that by the points we scored. We then relaxed a little and that let them back into the game. Against a good side like Sale, especially at home, you can’t afford to do that.

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“As a group – and the coaches said it as well – we just didn’t do what we said we would do in the week. We were good for that initial part of the game, but then we lost the momentum and aside from a little bit in the second half, we didn’t impose our game on them for long enough.”

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