The two word text message Eddie Jones sent Sam Simmonds after his Lions call-up
Simmonds was called into Warren Gatland’s 37-man Lions squad despite not featuring for England in over two years. His omission from England duty has been the talk of the sport for the past year, especially given the flying form the Exeter Chiefs No.8 has been showcasing in the Gallagher Premiership and in Europe.
Simmonds in an interview in the Daily Mail has shed more light on his England situation, revealing Jones had messaged him after he got the Lions call earlier this month.
“He sent me a text to say, ‘Well done’. Over the past few months, there has been more chat with the England set-up and that gives you some confidence,” said the European Player of the Year in 2020. “I was always hopeful that if I wasn’t selected by the Lions then I’d be involved on the England summer tour.
“I was gutted not to be involved in the Six Nations but the positive is that my form has been good for Exeter and I’ve been playing in a winning team, which gave me the best possible opportunity to be picked for the Lions.
“It’ll be great to right some of the wrongs of when I played international rugby in the past. I’m more mature and more physical now. I know how to train.”
Whether Simmonds would have been included in England’s summer series if he had not got the Lions call remains to be seen, but the back row very much wants to get back involved.
“I still want to play for England and be in contention for selection in the autumn. I’ve not been getting selected for England and I’ve made peace with that, but I still want to be a part of a successful England team.”
Simmonds had received assurances from Warren Gatland that he would be considered for British and Irish Lions selection despite being frozen out by England and sure enough, he got the nod. Speaking earlier this year, Simmonds said: “…we had a brief chat because I wasn’t playing in the Six Nations. He [Gatland] told me not to worry about that, to keep playing well for my club,” Simmonds said. “This was actually before the tour to South Africa was confirmed. He said, ‘If you keep doing what you’re doing, then we’ll see what happens’.
“Even though I haven’t been playing international rugby I know I’m getting the same chances as the other boys are. I didn’t really think much about the Lions until speaking to Warren Gatland and seeing him watch our games.
“End of last season, I didn’t even think ‘oh, next season is the Lions tour’ because I didn’t feel close enough to it. I wasn’t playing at the highest level, so why would you consider someone playing at club rugby?”
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