Sam Simmonds celebrated a record-breaking night earlier this week, with his blistering hat-trick inspiring Exeter Chiefs past London Irish.
The No.8 broke a Gallagher Premiership record at the Brentford Community Stadium, his third of the night taking him to 19 for the season – two more than any other player has ever achieved in a single campaign.
Simmonds, who has consistently been overlooked by England, could play a crucial role for the Lions against South Africa this summer after being selected by Warren Gatland.
A number 8 with the foot speed of a centre, Gatland has reportedly revealed he’s open to the try-scoring machine playing a role in the midfield if the situation presents itself.
Simmonds wouldn’t be the first English back-rower to play in the centre following Sam Burgess’ infamous switch into the midfield for England during their disastrous 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign.
However, Gatland reportedly wants to try him in that position in training early in the tour with the view of using him as a back-up option against the physical Springboks.
As Simmonds’ club coach Rob Baxter said this week: “If you get Sam on the ball in any kind of space, or not that much space, that ability to get you over the gainline and moving forward quickly is second to none in the Premiership at the moment.
“He’s not a soak-up tackler, he’s a guy who gets off the line and stops people – and what his speed allows him to do is make tackles that no other forward makes. He’s the guy you [want to] get on the ball, the receiver at line-outs, and a strike runner in the backline – as a runner or a decoy.”
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#5. Christian Wade (2013)
What they said: “Although he didn’t get much game time, Wade was referred to as a fantastic ‘tourist’ and perhaps will most be remembered for the camera panning to his teammates during a warm up match with him giggling away as he combed his hair.”
What we think: The one-cap England wide-man was called up to play in the Brumbies game but stole the show for his hair-combing off the field, not his rugby. An abundance of speed and can finish but looked very raw and didn’t relish defensive duties.