George Martin is a brilliant prospect but the continuing omission of Sam Simmonds by England boss Eddie Jones is starting to feel like it’s personal. One thing is for sure, there is nothing more the European player of the year can do to impress the England head coach after scoring eleven tries in nine Premiership games from No8 since the start of this season.
It’s an amazing honour to get your first international call-up and it will hopefully be the first of many for Martin, so you don’t want to detract from that and it’s certainly no slight on him but Simmonds has more tries this campaign than Martin has senior career appearances and it is hard to see the logic behind the selection.
People will say that Martin was in England’s shadow squad so he was simply the next cab off the rank but Kyle Sinckler wasn’t named on that list of reserves and he was still parachuted straight into the fold so there is no reason why the same couldn’t have been done here, especially with Jack Willis’ injury happening two weeks before the next game.
Jones says he wants to put smiles on people’s faces and Simmonds does just that. He has everything that England are crying out for right now. Pace, power, the ability to beat someone at close quarters. He ticks every single box.
It feels like stubbornness is preventing Jones from picking him at the moment because there has been much clamour for him to do so in the media and perhaps it would feel like an admission that he was wrong. That is just cutting off your nose to spite your face though and, while it is absolutely his prerogative to pick who he sees fit, I hope it isn’t the case that he is overlooking such a talent for that reason.
All this is putting some people who are avid fans of the club game off international rugby and a lot of people who only watch international rugby are bored with how England are playing. The issue of Simmonds’ size is always raised but Ben Earl is not dissimilar in stature to him so I don’t think that is the reason and neither Martin nor Simmonds are a like-for-like replacement for Willis.
There are also plenty of players in the squad already who can cover second row and blindside in terms of Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje and then the likes of Mark Wilson, who is a more traditional No6. This feels very different from some of the other high-profile cases of players being consistently left out by Jones as well.
Alex Goode won the European player of the year award too but Jones has been open about the fact he likes a rapid, counter-attacking full-back so you can see why he might not fit into his plans.
Danny Cipriani was given a very brief opportunity but he is a very different type of fly-half to George Ford and Owen Farrell and there were always question marks around his demeanour and his personal qualities in a team environment. Nobody has a bad word to say about Simmonds.
Jones is a master at handling the media, sending out messages and keeping players on their toes, but this isn’t a great message to send to a guy who has been tearing it up in club rugby for the past 18 months and others like him.
The reason for Simmonds being overlooked yet again has to be something completely outside of rugby matters and we need to hear why.
Sam Simmonds has scored 52 tries in 76 Test, Premiership and Champions Cup games compared to Billy Vunipola's 32 tries in 208…
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 13, 2021
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now