Exeter legend Gareth Steenson says that Joe Simmonds’ current club form makes it ‘hard to overlook’ the talented fly-half for international honours, writes Gareth Davies.
With Simmonds also captaining Exeter when selected post-lockdown, it would be a huge surprise if he isn’t picked for England’s upcoming Six Nations and autumn international games.
However, the 23-year-old homegrown talent is yet to make his Red Rose bow at senior level, with current England head coach Eddie Jones instead preferring Leicester Tigers’ George Ford and Saracens’ Owen Farrell at fly-half.
With the Tigers very much a team in transition, having endured a horrible 2019-20 campaign to date and Saracens playing the Championship next term, Simmonds’ rise to prominence couldn’t have been better timed.
Speaking to The Indy before Friday’s clash with Northampton Saints, Dungannon-born Steenson also rather intriguingly revealed that he felt playing for Exeter, and not one of the precieved bigger, longer established Premiership clubs, does harm chances of an international call-up.
Nevertheless, the 35-year-old didn’t attribute this as the reason why he never pulled on Ireland’s famous green jersey.
“If you wear a Chiefs jersey, sometimes you are a wee bit looked over maybe, although perhaps I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he began.
“Hopefully, if we continue to play well and continue to play the way we are playing, you are going to see more guys given the opportunity to play international rugby.
“That’s what we want to be as a club, one that wins things, guys perform and then go onto play at a higher level. That’s what we’re about and we have seen it with other guys who have got themselves in [international teams]. Joe is relatively new and there are some pretty good tens already in the position for England, but he’s going really well and running the team really well.
“Last year was a big year for him because we really needed him to step up and step into the leadership role which he has done and he has done it very well.
“If he keeps performing well, knocking his goals over and running the team, hopefully winning things, he will be hard to overlook and will get an opportunity in an international jersey one day.”
Steenson also spoke positively about Exeter’s squad and in their four games before Friday’s European Cup quarter-final dress-rehersal, it seemed that whoever they picked and whatever the opposition, they were simply a cut above.
The 36-year-old, who will retire from competitive rugby at the end of this truncated campaign, felt that these recent strong showings were because of the efforts from everyone connected with the club.
“We have a good squad here and we played an internal match against each other and it was pretty tight,” Steenson enthused. “Pretty much the two teams you are seeing at the minute were the two teams playing and nobody walked away with it.
“This shows that we have a good group of guys and whenever we achieve anything, it’s not about the guys standing on the pitch, but the fellas that work hard [off the pitch] on a day-by-day basis.
“I suppose this whole Covid thing has allowed you to see fellas who work hard and train every day, basically prep the team you see at the weekend – that is great for us as a group.”