‘Chiefs’ England hopefuls keen to impress’ – Rob Baxter

Date published: November 21 2020

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter said hat-trick hero Sam Simmonds was one of a number of Chiefs players “burning to illustrate” what they can do to England coach Eddie Jones.

Number eight Simmonds produced an outstanding individual effort with three tries to help Exeter start their Premiership title defence with a 33-3 win over Harlequins at the Stoop.

The champions were fortunate to be able to call on Simmonds and other leading players who could all be considered for England selection, with his brother Joe and props Harry Williams and Alec Hepburn touted as possible national team players.

Put down a marker

Baxter said: “Sam Simmonds put down a marker out there as he and a number of our players are burning to illustrate what they can do.

“There is no criticism of Eddie Jones but players can’t sit and wait. All they can do is keep putting their name in the hat and wait for your turn to happen.”

Dave Ewers and Stu Townsend were also on the try-scoring sheet for Exeter, with Joe Simmonds adding four conversions.

A penalty from Marcus Smith was Quins’ sole response.

Baxter was thrilled with his side’s performance, which came just 27 days since they secured last season’s crown.

He said: “I’m really pleased as you’ve got to hand it to the players for with such limited prep time, they were able to turn up and put on a magnificent show away from home.

“You have to have a great work ethic and they showed it tonight and you don’t win games of Premiership rugby unless you are able to show that.”

He added: “It would be great for us to be more adventurous and I’m sure that will come as it’s frustrating sitting in hotel rooms and looking at weather forecasts which show rain continually falling down.”

Harlequins try chalked off

Quins director of rugby Paul Gustard was left to wonder what might have been after having a try from Andre Esterhuizen chalked off.

He said: “Coming into the game, we felt confident as we played well in the final four weeks of last season.

“We defended excellently in the first half and going into the last quarter we could have been trailing 12-10 if Andre Esterhuizen’s try had not been ruled out for crossing.

“We had a plan to deal with their close-range line-out drives but we weren’t able to execute it and it felt like a death by a thousand cuts.

“We couldn’t keep hold of the ball in the middle quarter and we lost the penalty count 16-7 so it was a frustrating start with a powerful team like Exeter showing us that we have a long way to go.”