Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Lions tour made Sam Simmonds realise how much he missed international rugby

Sam Simmonds has re-established himself in the England squad (PA)
Sam Simmonds has re-established himself in the England squad (PA)

Sam Simmonds says that last summer’s British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa made him realise how much he missed international rugby.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland selected the Exeter number eight – Simmonds featured as a replacement in the third Test – for his squad despite being surplus to England requirements.

Simmonds had not represented his country since March 2018, yet Gatland saw enough in the 27-year-old’s immense club form to warrant a place on the plane.

Sam Simmonds
Sam Simmonds (right) in action for the 2021 British and Irish Lions (Steve Haag/PA)

Simmonds, European player of the year in 2020, has since returned to the England fold, doubling his caps tally to 14 by playing seven Tests this season.

“That (Lions tour) was the start of me really wanting to get back into the England fold,” Simmonds said, ahead of Exeter’s Heineken Champions Cup round of 16 first-leg clash against Munster on Saturday.

“It made me realise what I had been missing through injury or not being selected, so that spurred me on, and to get selected again was amazing.

“Over time, when I wasn’t getting selected, I just felt like there was something missing and I wanted to test myself again and be back playing at the highest level.

“I have enjoyed playing for England, I have enjoyed training, I’ve enjoyed testing myself at that level again.

“Maybe in the past, I was a little bit of rabbit in the headlights and didn’t maybe take the opportunity that was put in front of me and didn’t really express myself, whereas I feel like the Lions gave me the confidence to do that, and then that added into playing for England.”

Simmonds had starred in a 38-16 Exeter victory over Bath, watched by Gatland, before a call came from the Lions boss.

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

Warren Gatland
British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland during the 2021 South Africa tour (Steve Haag/PA)

“It was literally like a minute-and-a-half (conversation), but for me that was good.

“For whatever reason, I wasn’t being selected for England at the time, but I felt like I was in good form, so it was nice to be able to still be recognised when you are not actually playing international rugby.”

Simmonds was one of England’s most consistent performers during a disappointing Guinness Six Nations campaign this term. Although they finished third, Eddie Jones’ team lost three games.

But attention now switches completely to the Chiefs, with Munster standing between them across home and away legs and a quarter-final place.

Exeter, European champions the season before last, remain in a Gallagher Premiership play-off position despite losing nine of their 21 league games.

“It has been hit and miss, hasn’t it?” Simmonds said. “It has been a disrupted season with results, and things haven’t gone our way in a lot of things.

“It has been exciting watching the boys perform while I have been away for the Six Nations to really push ourselves back into contention to secure a top-four spot.

“When I have played against Irish opposition in the past, they pretty much are Test matches.

“That is what you expect from Irish teams, and you expect that from knockout games, and we won’t be shying away from it. We will relish it.”