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The reason why London Irish couldn't convince Rob Simmons to stay

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images)

Declan Kidney has bemoaned the financial imbalance that ultimately made it impossible for London Irish to keep hold of ex-Wallabies lock Rob Simmons. The soon-to-be 34-year-old was unveiled as a new Clermont signing last Monday on a two-year deal through to the summer of 2025.

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English rugby has financially been under the cosh in recent times, the reduced salary cap restricting the level of funding clubs are able to spend on their squads. However, Kidney suggested that the cap drop to £5million per squad and the reduction from two to one marquee players sitting outside that budget wasn’t the reason they lost out on Simmons.

Instead, he explained that the different taxation systems at play in the UK and France was the decisive difference in Simmons deciding his future after the completion of the 2022/23 season was best served in the Top 14 rather than remain in the Gallagher Premiership with his three-year deal set to expire.

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Salaries in excess of £150,000 in England are taxed at 45 per cent whereas, in France, Simmons would be considered non-resident, which means that rather than paying 49 per cent tax on earnings above €160,000, his tax rate would be just 30 per cent.

“The biggest difference really is the tax system,” explained Kidney when asked why London Irish had lost out to a French club in their effort to keep Simmons in the Premiership.

“There is just a different tax system for sportspeople in France and that gives them a decided advantage when it comes to recruiting players. I wouldn’t like to go into the area of tax expert, but over there it would be about half that [what it is in England].”

Simmons has been one of the best value-for-money recruits ever at London Irish, the 102-time Australian international playing 62 times so far for the club since joining in 2020 from the Super Rugby Waratahs. His near ever-presence is the characteristic that has most impressed Kidney.

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“The consistency of it is the standout feature. He is that reliable player in your squad. The fact that he has over 50 games is a fair achievement. He came to us with over 100 international caps and he has now got over 50 London Irish caps in what is a relatively short stint. Not many players manage to get that number and you know the way they do it in cricket, I wonder how many first-class games he has played in his career to date?”

It adds to up a very impressive total of 320 first-class games when Simmons’ 156 Super Rugby appearances for the Waratahs and the Reds are factored in. No wonder he has wielded such great influence in the London Irish dressing room.

“Leading by example, showing how much is within a player’s own control to get right, not looking to say my way is the right way but by just his consistency of performance, his consistency of preparation, his consistency of approach to it and yet being able to enjoy himself at the same time – it showed players here that you can do both,” enthused Kidney when asked what legacy the Australian will leave at the club.

“That is a huge skill for younger players to learn – they have to learn how to be good at their job and for me it is also important that they learn how to be good at their job and enjoy that at the same time. Some lads try so hard to do their job they get so serious, and they get tied up in knots. In Rob’s case, he can show you can be right in the middle of the intensity of it and then just have a bit of a craic then too.”

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