It only lasted six minutes, but Sam Simmonds’ return to the England team last Saturday was a time to celebrate.
As Exeter No. 8 was the last to leave Eddie Jones’s bench against Australia, it received an enthusiastic reception at Twickenham.
Having spent three years in Devon winning trophies, breaking records but watching England play without him, he might have thought seven caps would be his luck, especially when Jones left him for the Tonga game earlier this fall.
Sam Simmonds’ return to the England team last Saturday was a time to celebrate
But briefly turning against the Wallabies, he took a chance; pouncing on a loose ball on the final play to run down the left wing and free Jamie Blamire for England’s second try. One touch, one assist: Simmonds finally ended his no-pick saga and came to life with England.
“When I came back from the Lions, I realized that what I want is England, to be involved again,” Simmonds tells Sportsmail.
“ I always wanted it, but my mind clicked that this environment is tough, but that’s where you get all the rewards.
A lot has changed for Simmonds when it comes to England, and he’s here to stay.
‘That’s where I want to be, playing with and against the best players in the world. It made me realize that I can be selected. I have been chosen for the Lions, so why can’t I do it for England? It made me love him a little more. ‘
It’s been so long since he’s been involved, Simmonds has seen this fall start over with his country.
“I saw a lot when the ‘these are the new players’ roster was announced and I was looking for my name because I feel like I’m a new kid,” adds the 27-year-old.
‘I want to have a new beginning. The last time I participated I was 23 years old and I still felt very young. He hadn’t played much first-team rugby.
“ My career was a little different from that of some who play now, who have playing time for their club and are selected at 19 or 20 years old.
‘I was a later developer. I loved my time on loan at Plymouth, Brixham and the Cornish Pirates, but that took up much of my early development.
“ I made my Premiership debut at 22, the season we won the title in 2016-17. He was not a mature player. I loved being selected for England back then, but I didn’t love being there or taking it easy. Now I want to play, be a starter or on the bench, make an effort. I know what I have to do ‘.
While the clamor for the inclusion of Simmonds grew during Exeter’s 2019-20 double-win season, and last year, when he scored 21 attempts in 23 games, he focused on his club play. As much as he longed to go to national camps, he believes that doing so could have hampered his progress.
Participation in the Lions tour made Simmonds know he needed to get back into the England fold.
“People said I should play for England, but I loved playing for Exeter,” he says.
‘He could have been selected, gone and not played, just trained. It could have delayed my development. I kept going and got better. I’m in a good place to go back and see what I can do. ‘
He showed what he could do on the Lions tour, but he is amused that his team is now spread out across Devon – a jersey is in his stepfather’s office, another at Teignmouth RFC, training gear with his friends and a lot most used by him. dad.
“He loves it, works at the Teignmouth fishing pier and probably uses everything there.” laughs Simmonds, who has been regularly FaceTiming home from camp in England to join Emily and her one-month-old daughter, Billie.
Despite the 2-1 loss, he loved the Lions tour, joining Elliot Daly, Finn Russell and others in sharing stories and beers on the bubble, and learning from Alun Wyn Jones and Owen Farrell.
Labeling himself a ‘late developer’, Simmonds now feels he has a stage to shine on
‘They are at the top of their game and Alun Wyn has been for, what, 40 years! It’s because they work hard, ”he says. Everyone has their opinion on Farrell, but he wants to be the best and he wants to win.
“Playing with them was incredible. When you think you are working hard enough, there is still a long way to go to be the best. You could see after the last game that we were devastated and we could have won, maybe we should have won, but we didn’t. ”
Simmonds made the tour because of his incredible scoring season, and he has 44 extraordinary attempts in 62 games in two years for Exeter and the Lions, but he doesn’t want to be labeled purely a poacher.
“I don’t want to be known as a simple five-meter pick-and-go trader,” he says. ‘I want that in my game, but I want to be a destructive ball carrier that beats defenders. And not just in the Premiership, but internationally as well. ”
He is also particularly interested in playing South Africa on Saturday now, seeking a rematch from the Lions.
Simmonds (left) seen in training last week, is desperate to face South Africa again
“I hope it can have an impact because I feel that if things had gone differently in that last test we could have beaten them,” he adds.
We have the firepower to beat them. I’m very lucky to even have a limit. But I want more. I want to go into double figures and keep pushing. I haven’t had so many good times playing for England, I hope to do some now. ”
Sam Simmonds is an ambassador for the new sportswear brand Union Athletic. Find out more at unionathletic.co.uk.