Sam Simmonds: Exeter forward capable of Lions place says boss Rob Baxter

By Brent PilnickBBC Sport
Sam Simmonds scores against Bath
Sam Simmonds needs just four more tries equal the Premiership record of 17 for a single season with 10 games still to play

Exeter boss Rob Baxter says Sam Simmonds is capable of being selected for the British and Irish Lions.

Simmonds, 26, has scored 14 tries in 13 games in all competitions this season and his tally of 13 Premiership scores is seven more than his nearest rival.

Lions boss Warren Gatland watched Simmonds - who has not played for England in three years- score in his side's win over Bath last week.

"He's watching those games for a reason," Baxter told BBC Sport.

"I know Taulupe Faletau was playing as well and some other internationals were involved, but the truth is he will have watched Taulupe Faletau play the week before and seen Tom Francis play the week before, he won't have watched some of our players play the week before because they weren't involved in the internationals."

Simmonds' last England cap came in the 24-15 loss to Ireland at Twickenham in March 2018 when the Irish secured a Six Nations Grand Slam.

Since then, the back row has scored 44 tries for Exeter and was named European player of the Year last season after helping Chiefs win a historic Premiership and Champions Cup double.

"At the moment Sam's not in favour with England," said Baxter.

"It must be obvious that he doesn't fit into the Eddie Jones' blueprint at this stage, which is fine, that's how things work.

"But that doesn't mean he doesn't fit into the Warren Gatland blueprint."

The British and Irish Lions tour South Africa in July and August with three Test matches scheduled.

"There's a perception that if you're the best player in your position then you're bound to play for your country," Baxter added.

"It doesn't always work like that and I think some successful Lions tours in the past have shown that.

"I don't think it necessarily counts against Sam, although I do know that he's desperate to play for England, and if I'm honest with you I don't think that's not going to happen, I think down the line Sam will play for England, it's just not his time right now."

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