England keep it in the family while looking to the future as Joe Simmonds could follow his brother Sam

Outgoing Chiefs star Thomas Waldrom gave a glowing review of the brothers

Sam Peters
Sunday 06 May 2018 16:11
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Simmonds is a future England No 10
Simmonds is a future England No 10

Marcus Smith may be the young English fly half attracting the headlines but it was 21-year-old Exeter Chiefs star Joe Simmonds who looked the international playmaker in-waiting at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday.

Uncapped Simmonds, younger brother of England No8 Sam, was absolutely magnificent as Rob Baxter’s men stormed into the Aviva Premiership play offs with a five-try demolition of a Quins team which at least bothered to turn up for John Kingston’s final game in charge.

The youngster scored one sublime try, picking a wonderful line to scorch to the line for his team’s fourth try just before the break, while playing a key hand in three others as the defending champions finished the regular season on top of the Aviva Premiership table.

With veteran No10 Gareth Steenson proving the perfect foil to Simmonds when he replaced him with a quarter to go, Chiefs have experience to go with the youngster’s precocious talent and look in superb shape to reclaim the crown they won for the first time last season.

Joe’s older brother Sam could return for the team’s semi-final outing against Newcastle at Sandy Park on Saturday week after being rested here, and his replacement Thomas Waldrom, who leaves the club at the end of the season, says the brothers are driving the culture of success at the Devon outfit.

Simmonds starred against Harlequins

“Joe is just like his brother, down to earth,” said Waldrom. “They work very hard at their trade. They’re from Teignmouth, a little town in Devon and they’re nice blokes.

“If you’re a bit of a prima donna you’re going to get found out in the Chiefs squad and in the changing room. They’re very down to earth, really good boys with a big future going forward.

“Joe has a good guy to learn from too. Steeno has been there done it before. Give Joe credit he took his opportunity well. They work together.”

Ominously for their title rivals Saracens, Wasps and Newcastle, Baxter’s Chiefs look fit, confident and fully loaded at a critical point in the season.

Even a vastly improved performance from lowly Harlequins, whose season has been savaged by injuries, ill-discipline and poor form, could not come remotely close to knocking them off their perch.

At least Quins fought hard as Kingston bade farewell to a club he has served for 17 years but was unable to take them forward after taking over as director of rugby from Conor O’Shea two years ago.

With Simmonds calling the shots and Dave Ewers back to his best at blindside flanker, Chiefs have a powerful set piece and exciting three-quarters drilled in the Exeter way and determined to deliver silverware for the second season running.

Waldrom is leaving Exeter at the end of the season

Olly Woodburn, surplus to requirements at Bath three seasons ago, has also been superb on the wing for Chiefs this season and Waldrom says Baxter’s habit of spotting talent outside the Premiership is proving key to Exeter’s long-term success.

“Rob finds the right people for the fit of the club, not the other way around,” Waldrom said. “He finds people from the championship, like Tom Francis and Mitch Lees. I don’t where Rob finds them but he does a bloody good job. Ali hepher runs our attack. he has some great ideas going forward. I can’t see us staying still. If you aren’t willing to progress and work hard you’re going to get left behind. That’s not what you want at the Chiefs. For me personally it’s a great working environment.”

Exeter go into the knock-out stages as clear favourites to retain their crown and with youngsters like the Simmonds brothers, Sam Hill, Sam Skinner, Henry Slade, Luke Cowan Dickie and Jack Nowell driving the club forward they could have sustained success for many years to come.

Waldrom, 35, will have to wait to see if he can end his time at Chiefs with more silverware but insists the club is in good hands whatever Baxter decides.

“It would be amazing to sign off with a trophy but it’s not in my hands,” he added. “It’s up to the coaches to decide. All I can do is train hard. We know the young kid Sam is going rally well. It’s going to be tough to push him out. He’s going to be there for a long time. That’s what you want.

“To build teams around Sam, Joe, Sam Skinner. They’re the backbone of our team at the moment. A few years ago it was Henry, Dave and Dickie and stuff. We have some great talent coming through. The club is in great hands. We’re in better shape than last year.”

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