Exeter number eight returns on Lions tour of South Africa

Sam Simmonds, number eight for the England and Exeter Chiefs, has revealed how being selected for the Lions’ tour of South Africa has rekindled his love for international rugby.

Exeter’s baggy striker was a surprise selection for the tour, with head coach Warren Gatland including him despite the fact he hadn’t played international rugby since 2018 at the time.

Simmonds’ form forced Warren Gatland’s hand

There was no doubt he was in incredible form, winning the 2020 European Player of the Year award on his way into Gatland’s plans.

He had a solid tour against the Springboks and has since found himself in the England setup as well.

Although it was just a reward for a hard-working player at the peak of his career, Simmonds admits the Lions tour made him realize how much he missed the intensity of international rugby.

“It was the start of my desire to return to the English fold,” Simmonds said.

“It made me realize what I had missed out on due to injury or not being selected, so it gave me a boost, and being selected again was amazing.

“Over time, when I was not selected, I just felt like something was missing and I wanted to test myself again and come back to play at the highest level.

“I enjoyed playing for England, I enjoyed training, I enjoyed testing myself again at this level.

“Maybe in the past I was a bit of a rabbit in the headlights and maybe I didn’t take the opportunity that came my way and I didn’t speak up, when I I feel like the Lions gave me the confidence to do that, and then that added to playing for England.

Simmonds revealed the Lions call-up came as a shock to everyone but himself as Gatland let him know he was being considered despite being out of England’s plans.

“Warren said he knew I wasn’t playing international rugby at the time but to keep doing what I was doing and I would be considered,” he added.

“It was literally like a minute and a half (talk), but for me it was fine.

“For some reason I wasn’t selected for England at the time, but I felt like I was in good shape, so it was nice to still be able to be recognized when you’re not playing. in international rugby.”

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Charles P. Patton