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‘If it wasn’t for rugby, though, I don’t have a clue what I would have done. My dad has fishing boats, putting out pots around Weymouth and Alderney, so maybe I would have become a fisherman.’
Naturally, Simmonds’s dad cooked up a platter of lobster and crab to celebrate his son’s Lions selection. ‘Me and Jonny were involved in the England summer tour of South Africa in 2018 and there were five of us on the bench who didn’t get on. That was tough.
The Exeter number 8 has enjoyed a record-breaking season of try-scoring with the Chiefs
‘I was pretty upset at the time. Jonny was gutted too. It was a bit of a kick in the teeth because it felt like they didn’t have faith to put you on.
‘Maybe they had other reasons for sticking with the players who were already on the pitch, but it feels like they don’t trust your ability to get on and close a game out. These things happen and it’s just about how you react. Look at what Jonny has achieved since: it did wonders for Jonny. We both reacted to it quite well.’
Simmonds’s reaction has won worldwide acclaim. His weight increased from 90kg (14st 2lb) to 106kg (16st 9lb), without losing his speed and he has become one of the most potent No8s in world rugby.
World Cup-winning All Black Jerome Kaino is among his fanclub. When he was named in Gatland’s squad, the well-wishing messages flooded in from everyone, from England coaches to Dan Carter.
The Exeter No 8 is the Premiership’s record try-scorer, but hasn’t played for England since 2018