Sam Simmonds: Back row can deal with England pressure says Exeter boss Rob Baxter


Sam Simmonds
Premiership Player of the Year Sam Simmonds was called up by the Lions this summer, but has not played for England since 2018

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter says Sam Simmonds will deal with any pressure that might be on him after his England training squad call-up.

The back row was picked by the British and Irish Lions for their summer tour.

“You shouldn’t be getting selected for your country if people aren’t expecting big things from you,” Baxter said.

“I think he’ll deal with that really well, as every player does who steps into international camps.

“The reality is the guys who stay there in the international set up are guys who deal with that, they deal with those pressures, they deal with those expectations, they get on with it, they play well.

“So if he wants to have a sustained England career he will get on and deal with those things.”

Simmonds – named Premiership Player of the Year for 2020-21 – won the last of his seven England caps against Ireland in March 2018 and came on in the final Lions Test against South Africa on 7 August.

Baxter says Simmonds’ development has impressed England boss Eddie Jones in conversations he had had with him.

Sam Simmonds scores for England
Sam Simmonds’ two England tries came against Italy in the the 2018 Six Nations

“He thinks he’s taking good steps forward in the key areas,” Baxter added.

“Everyone’s aware he’s quick and he’s powerful, they’re very much his super-strengths so they very much want him to keep developing those things.

“They also want him to really work on his game involvements as often as possible, particularly when a game loses its structure and they’re really pleased with how his defensive work’s been going.

“That’s something that people maybe questioned a couple of years ago – we certainly never have because we understand how we’re doing it – but you are seeing more and more physicality in that area as well and all of those things have been things that Sam’s been working on and they’ve all led to him getting this England call-up.”

Simmonds is one of four Exeter players – alongside Henry Slade, Jonny Hill and Luke Cowan-Dickie – named in Eddie Jones’ 45-man squad that will meet later this month.

But Baxter – whose side made a sixth-successive Premiership final in June – feels there are still more Exeter players that could deserve a a call-up, with players including Jack Nowell and Harry Williams missing out.

“Obviously we’re a little disappointed not to get more than four in there,” Baxter said.

“But at the same time we have got a fresh face in there with Sam and I do think we’ve still got a few guys here who can actually put in a couple of consistent years and at their age their international futures are ahead of them.”



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