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Wednesday Jan 3, 2024

Joe Simmonds opens up about life in France and the pressure surrounding international selection

In an exclusive interview with RugbyPass, Joe Simmonds has opened up about his time in France and his struggles surrounding the pressure of international selection.

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The 27-year-old will forever be revered as a club legend over at Sandy Park after becoming the youngest-ever European Cup-winning captain during Exeter Chiefs double winning season of 2019/20. Winning both the English Premiership and Champions Cup in one season concluded arguably the greatest-ever club rise in English history after the Devon-based side joined the Premiership just over a decade prior.

The ability to remain at the very top is one that very few clubs or players can master, and unfortunately for both Exeter Chiefs and Joe Simmonds, the journey down grew steadily more rocky. Whilst both player and club continued to grind out results, their performances started to crumble. Before long, Exeter were sinking into a mid-table side, whilst Joe Simmonds was starting to become second fiddle to Harvey Skinner.

“Winning those trophies, they were brilliant, I loved every part of it.” Simmonds told RugbyPass, about his time at Exeter. “I liked captaining the side, but what comes with it is obviously a lot of media stuff, people saying ‘you should be in’ [The England squad], sometimes you’re expecting you might get a call.

“I had so much going on in my head. For any youngster growing up you want to play for England, and my goal was to play for England, but as time went on I probably dwelled on it too much when not getting picked. I just worried about things and put too much pressure on myself.”

Cries for Simmonds’ inclusion in the England squad were shortly left by the wayside, instead replaced by groans from fans amidst the desperation for the young fly half to regain his form. The Torquay born playmaker was working hard on his game, now unburdened by the captaincy that had since been released. His ability to manage the game was starting to return, but Exeter’s exodus of players was affecting the quality of those he had outside of him.

With the club on the very obvious rebuild, Simmonds made the decision to rebuild his own career, away from the limelight of his boyhood club. Off to France he went, with Pau the destination. Now playing in the Top 14, Simmonds has combined with former Wasps and England scrum half Dan Robson to great success, with their new club now sitting comfortably in fourth place in the table.

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“I’m 27 who knows where I’m going to be in the next two years, for me I just wanted to come out here and just love rugby again, and I feel like I’m doing that. I’ve been here four or five months now and I’m really enjoying my rugby, and that’s just because I made this decision to come out here.”

“I’d love to play for England” Simmonds concluded, “and obviously I’ve got to be in England to play, but for now my job is to keep improving here and helping the team win games.”

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