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The emotion Simmonds feels over his first England start in 4 years

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Steve Bardens/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Recalled England No8 Sam Simmonds insists he hasn’t felt any added pressure this week after earning a first start for his country in four years. It was 2018 when the back-rower last started a Test match but he has now been included by Eddie Jones in the XV that will take the field on Saturday versus Scotland in the Guinness Six Nations.  

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It’s a massive achievement for the 27-year-old whose repeated rejection by England generated massive coverage, especially throughout the 2020/21 Gallagher Premiership season when he smashed the league’s long-standing top try-scorer record for a single campaign.  

Despite this endless hype getting further fuelled by Simmonds’ selection to tour with the Lions, Jones refused to bite until the recent Autumn Nations Series campaign when he eventually called up the forward to appear off the bench in the wins over Australia and South Africa. 

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Now he has been chosen to start, bridging the gap back to March 2018 when he last wore the No8 England jersey. Having generated so much publicity in the last number of years, is there now an element of greater pressure on him to deliver after all the support he received?  

“You know there are pressures of playing at the top level, playing for your club, playing international games, but this week I haven’t felt any added pressure,” he insisted on Friday. 

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“No, I feel like I have been working towards getting myself back into the England setup the last couple of years, two or three years since being injured towards the end of 2018 and it is not pressure I feel, it’s excitement, it’s pride and to be honest, I can’t wait to get out there and put the England jersey on again.”

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Simmonds has been named in a back row that had Lewis Ludlam picked at blindside and Tom Curry captained England from openside. It is a differently balanced combination compared to what he would usually play with at Exeter, so will it mean he will have to adapt his role to ensure he goes well at Murrayfied?

“I don’t think it will change my role at all. The make up the back row, you can see it is an all-action back row, the boys beside me love to carry, love to tackle, love to get over the ball and that is something we are going to need against Scotland away.

“It is going to be tough in the wet and you need people who want to get up, kick chase and do the bits that others probably don’t want to do. We complement each other quite well as a three and I’m buzzing to get out with those two.”

Simmonds is one of four Exeter players named in the England 23 and there will be plenty of familiar Chiefs faces on the opposite side as Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray will start with Sam Skinner providing support from the Scotland bench.

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“I actually haven’t spoken to them this week. I’m good friends with all three, especially Sam. I played with Sam for a number of years and played against him at school and stuff like that. I’m looking forward to seeing him after the game but in a professional environment they have got a job to do, we have got a job to do, we have got to focus on the task at hand. But yeah, I might just give him a text today, a little ‘good luck and have a chat to you after’.”

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