Japan win good ‘starting block’ for England ahead of All Blacks – Sam Simmonds

Sam Simmonds set up Guy Porter's first try against Japan on Saturday

Following a dominant performance against Japan, England’s Sam Simmonds says that the 52-13 win over the Brave Blossoms is a good ‘starting block’ ahead of the All Blacks next Saturday.

Upon his inclusion from the start for Eddie Jones’ England as they looked to get back to winning ways against Japan, it was clear that England were hoping to add some pace to their game.

Simmonds, along with Jonny May certainly did so, and the fact that England scored seven tries at Twickenham to beat the Brave Blossoms 52-13 at Twickenham Stadium. In what is staggeringly just his eighth start for England, Sam Simmonds certainly had a say in the game.

Carrying the ball more than anyone else on the England team, making the most meters and finishing second on the completed tackled and defenders beaten scoreboard, it was arguably the 28-year-old’s finest international showing to date.

He would have had a try too if it weren’t for a dark blue shirt holding onto his heels, the Exeter Chiefs man reluctantly passing the ball to Guy Porter to grab the first of his brace on Saturday afternoon.

Having reacted positively to their 30-29 loss to Argentina a week prior and the All Blacks up next, Simmonds was pleased with how he and his teammates acquitted themselves against their opposition on this weekend.

“It was nice to get a start and to be in a team where I felt emotionally, we were a lot better than we were last week,” he said. “Obviously you want to be emotional, but I felt like we controlled the game very well.

“We talked about having a power game and obviously the threats the Japanese side bring, they probably aren’t well-versed for a power game. I felt we did that well in the first half and probably reaped the rewards for that a little bit towards the end of the second half with a few more tries.

“Personal performance I was pretty happy with, and the team performance was a lot better than last week.”

Such a dynamic player, it has been long believed that Simmonds can be a key performer for England. Quicker than some backs and with a penchant for finding the whitewash – which he did 21 times in the 2020/21 season for Exeter - it leaves you scratching your head wondering how between 2018 and 2021 he gained no caps for England.

His international recall had nothing to do with England either, Warren Gatland picking the now Montpellier-bound back-row for his British and Irish Lions squad to take on South Africa over a year ago, Eddie Jones duly reselecting Simmonds for the Autumn Nations Series campaign that followed and every game of the Guinness Six Nations in 2022.

Missing England’s tour of Australia in the summer as a result of a hip injury, it is clear that the 28-year-old is hungry for more involvement at Test level. 

Moving to France next season to play for Philippe Saint-Andre’s Montpellier, Simmonds has had his contract structured so he can play at the World Cup if selected and should his performances in the coming weeks continue to be conducive to England, then he very well should be.

Simmonds’ and England’s challenge this coming week are the All Blacks. The most revered side in rugby, Simmonds will be playing opposite Ardie Savea if selected and will make for box office viewing should both see plenty of ball.

But as has been the case so far this Autumn, when the prospect of individual performances or battles are put to England players, they are keen to direct the conversation toward the current squad.

“What a player [Savea],” Simmonds said. “Not the biggest, to try and compare myself to him a little but, we’re not huge, but the way he uses that power and the things he does have, he uses them to the full extent.

“His leg-drive, his feet, his power, his plays that he has and big dummies, he’s a joy to watch. I’d be lying if that wasn’t something I try and work on and add to my game, because he’s probably the best No. 8 in the world at the moment.

“It’d be amazing to get an opportunity to play against him next week and see where we are as a team.

“We obviously didn’t perform well enough last week, but put the right foot forward this week with a good performance against a Japan side that in their last few Tests have really pushed some good teams.

“So, we’re happy with how we went and it’s a good starting block to go into New Zealand next week.”