There is a new Sam Simmonds campaign, which is gathering momentum fast. It’s not about England, because that one is futile. Eddie Jones won’t pick him. So his better Test hope is with the Lions.
Here is yet another reason why a tour must go ahead, whether it is in South Africa or — as a one-off last resort — at home, in the UK and Ireland.
It will present an opportunity to tackle a grave injustice involving Exeter’s brilliant No 8. He should be playing international rugby, so if his country (inexplicably) doesn’t want him, hopefully there will be an even higher calling.
Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio is a big fan of Exeter No 8 Sam Simmonds
On Saturday, the older Simmonds brother scored a try for the Chiefs. Again. It was his 13th strike of another prolific season.
He was relentlessly influential for Exeter. Again. He showcased his full repertoire of electric attacking talent. Again. The purple patch he is in goes on and on and on.
Commentating on Bath v Exeter at the Rec for BT Sport, former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio reached a state of agonised exasperation saying: ‘Come on, people have got to see this. Pick him!’
The plea was no doubt aimed at Jones, but returning to the subject later, Dallaglio switched his focus to Lions head coach Warren Gatland, who was in attendance at the Rec.
‘This guy is the best No 8 in Europe,’ said Dallaglio. ‘He’s the quickest back-row forward around, he’s powerful, he’s got great footwork, he’s got great hands, he’s got work-rate — what more do you need?
‘I’d be very surprised if Warren Gatland doesn’t like the look of what he sees.’
England head coach Eddie Jones considers Simmonds to be too small to be a Test No 8
If Simmonds wasn’t already a Lions ‘bolter’, he should be one now. Jones is quite content to ignore the calls to pick a player he considers to be too small to be an effective Test No 8, but that hasn’t stopped a host of influential figures banging the drum for him.
Last week, former New Zealand back-rower Jerome Kaino entered the fray, tweeting: ‘I’m never one to critique coaches’ selections but in my opinion, Sam Simmonds should be in the England mix. Most consistent loosie (loose forward) in Europe the last two years.’
Such is the class of the 26-year-old with just seven caps to his name that if he were a Kiwi, there is every chance he would have made far more appearances than that for the All Blacks by now.
They would doubtless recognise his rare qualities and the hope must be that one of their compatriots, Gatland, can see past the fact that Simmonds is not in the crowded heavyweight division.
He continues to make plans, without knowing if the Lions will be in action at the end of this season. Jones was asked about the concept of postponing the tour by a year — which he is understood to firmly oppose, as England have a series in Australia in July 2022 — and said: ‘We’d just have to cope with it. We don’t control those regulations. We’d just have to find the best way to get around it.’
He revealed that senior Lions figures offered conflicting messages after a board meeting on Friday; one saying the event would be staged here and the other saying that it would go ahead in South Africa.
Postponement has been pushed back on to the agenda as a possibility.
The uncertainty goes on.
The last word
Congratulations to Cornish Pirates for beating Saracens and in the process exposing the small-minded attitudes within the English rugby establishment which are wrecking any hope of growing the game.
The hosts’ wonderful 25-17 win on day one of the Championship season had implications far beyond proving that Mark McCall’s relegated side won’t just stroll back up to the Premiership unopposed.
On Sunday, the Pirates returned to the task of raising £50,000 through a public appeal for financial assistance — at a time of no matchday revenue and second-tier clubs having to cope with the Rugby Football Union’s decision to slash their funding.
Cornish Pirates celebrated a famous 25-17 victory against hot favourites Saracens on Saturday
Not only that, the RFU have also agreed to ring-fence the top division, in a short-term measure — ostensibly to offset the impact of Covid-19 disruption — which will inevitably lead to demands to maintain a closed shop. That must be resisted.
The result in Penzance should be a timely reminder that there can be life below the elite, if it is properly supported and encouraged.
‘Today showed we are valuable to rugby,’ said Pirates head coach Alan Paver. Quite right. Let’s hope the aftershocks reach the corridors of power at Twickenham.