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'Sam will be unlikely because he is going to be having an op'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Sam Simmonds has been described by his Exeter boss Rob Baxter as unlikely to tour this summer with England as he is due to have an operation to alleviate the pain he has with a niggly hip. The 27-year-old has played a part in the last seven England matches, ending a period out of favour under Eddie Jones that stretched back to his previous appearances in March 2018. 

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Record-breaking try-scoring exploits last season for Exeter catapulted Simmonds into the Lions squad that toured South Africa last year ahead of his England recall but he has been sidelined since missing his club’s mid-April Heineken Champions Cup round of 16 exit to Munster in Limerick. 

That evening at Thomond Park, Exeter coach Baxter said: “It’s a hip/groin, a combination of a few things. He is sore, he is struggling to train really and that is the problem. We can get him on the field but he is very limited in training which fitness-wise and performance-wise, he is kind of on that downward spiral until we can sort this issue out

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“We are investigating that now, he will see the specialist this week but with all the scans and things, we are hopeful we will see him before the end of the season.”

Those hopes have evaporated as far as Exeter are concerned as they have just two Gallagher Premiership games remaining and face their season ending on June 4 without reaching the playoffs. England, meanwhile, are not due to head to Australia until after their June 19 match versus the Barbarians at Twickenham. 

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Baxter didn’t 100 per cent rule Simmonds out from England tour selection, but he was keen to play up the positives for his player if he didn’t travel to Australia. “Sam will be unlikely (to tour) because he is going to be having an op,” explained the Exeter director of rugby at his media briefing ahead of Friday’s league trip to Bristol.

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“There are two ways of looking at it. What it will allow him to do is get this niggly hip injury that has been causing him pain – the restrictive thing has been the pain not so much the function – and if he gets this sorted now that means he will have a good recovery time and a good pre-season and it’s a huge year for anybody who has got international ambitions with next year being World Cup year. 

“It will really help him get to the level when you talk about from a club perspective level, a couple of years ago he was banging tries in from everywhere. He will want to follow that through because that is what led to his international and his Lions recognition. No one thing is ever a bad or good thing, you just have to drive it in a more positive direction.”

Baxter was speaking on a day when the 36-man squad for next week’s mini-England training camp was revealed to contain not a single Exeter player. Ten clubs were represented but with injuries to Simmonds, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell and Jonny Hill hitting the Chiefs hard and Henry Slade rested, Exeter, Gloucester and Worcester didn’t get a Test squad look-in with Jones this time. 

“Luke Cowan-Dickie has got a good chance of kind of being ready for the end stage of the season so in all possibility could still tour,” reckoned Baxter. “As far as we are looking at it they [Nowell and Hill] will be with England for some rehab and for someone to have a look at them early next week. 

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“They are progressing pretty well at the moment. If that progression continues there is no reason why (not). The tour is still a little way away. The last round of the Premiership isn’t until a couple of weeks and then you have got semi-final and final before the tour heads off. It’s still over a month before the tour heads off, so they have still got a decent amount of rehab time before those decisions need to be made.”

Cowan-Dickie needed an operation following his knee injury playing for England against Wales in late February, Nowell also required surgery on a broken arm suffered in the mid-March Test in France while Hill has been unavailable since picking up a high ankle injury with Exeter in January.

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