If the term ‘embarrassment of riches’ was in the dictionary, you’d probably see a picture of England’s back row options alongside it – and new kid on the block Sam Simmonds is firmly in the discussion.
While many people claim England lack world class players, there’s no doubt that there is plenty of talent on the team and certainly waiting to break in. There are a lot of back-rowers in the queue and head coach Eddie Jones will face some tough decisions in the near future.
It will be up to players to force their way in and Simmonds is certainly doing his cause no harm this season with current Premiership champions Exeter Chiefs.
Simmonds, who has come through the Chiefs’ ranks and spent time on loan at Cornish Pirates, scored the first try of the Premiership season against Gloucester.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) February 12, 2017
The 22-year-old’s double in the thrashing of Worcester last week took him to four tries in three games and the Torquay-born man has got tongues wagging.
Simmonds was tipped by many to have a breakout season but even his most ardent supporters will have been slightly taken aback by how much he has flourished so far – making Chiefs fans forget that Thomas Waldrom even exists (OK, maybe not).
He could not be at a better club. Rather than chasing the next big marquee signing like the Wasps, Saracens and Baths of the Premiership, Exeter have relied more on producing their own stars – and Simmonds looks to be the next off the production line.
Of course, being a very good Premiership player doesn’t always mean you’ll become a very good international player. There are certain attributes – such as pace and heightened awareness – that set apart the good from the great at the very top level.
— Samurai Sportswear (@samurai_sports) July 25, 2016
Simmonds packs a punch at 6ft and just over 16 stone but he has shown this season that he has all the tools required to wear the red rose.
There’s nobody that knows Sam Simmonds better than Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter and when asked whether his number 8 would be pulling on an England shirt in the next 12 months, he responded positively.
“I would hope so – what we’ve got to do is keep Sam on that upward curve, that’s the important thing. Sam’s able to play in our system and in our set-up to his strengths – I think that’s very important for us and very important for him, and that’s what we’ve got to keep developing.”
– Rob Baxter
The biggest obstacle for Simmonds to overcome is the competition. We’re two years away from the next World Cup and while an immediate call-up may be out of the question, featuring at the next big tournament in Japan is a realistic target.
With Billy Vunipola all but secured as England’s Number 8, there is going to be an almighty scramble for the other back row slots with other veterans also expecting to be in the mix.
Bath youngster Sam Underhill is a similar player of a similar age so he could likely end up battling Simmonds for England honours.
Then there’s the returning Jack Clifford, Wasps’ Nathan Hughes, Sale youngster Tom Curry, Gloucester’s Ben Morgan and Teimana Harrison of Northampton also on the cusp of Eddie Jones’ squad.
— Soccerex (@Soccerex) September 5, 2017
Only time will tell whether Sam Simmonds will fulfil Baxter’s prophecy. All we can say for now is that the young forward has quickly become one of the most exciting ‘must watch’ players in the Premiership.