Opportunity knocks for Joe
By Mark Stevens
Joe Simmonds says missing out on Anglo-Welsh Cup glory last season is acting as a motivating factor to go one stage further this season in the competition.
The young fly-half was part and parcel of the Chiefs side that lost 16-12 to Leicester Tigers at the Twickenham Stoop back in March.
However, having experienced the big day out for himself, albeit only to come unstuck right at the death, the 20-year-old playmaker is looking to help steer the Devonians to a fourth successive final appearance.
The Chiefs opened up their account with a seven-try, 43-28 home win over Northampton Saints last weekend - and now they will be looking to maintain that form when they travel to the Scarlets tomorrow (3pm).
Simmonds helped oversee a razor-sharp Exeter attack against the Saints, but it was the home side’s defence that has needed a little work this week ahead of their trip into the Principality.
“Last week was a great result for us,” said Simmonds, whose older brother Sam is today part of the England squad facing Argentina in the opening Autumn International at Twickenham. “We knew what Northampton would bring to the game, but we had a big focus on ourselves going into the game and luckily enough we got the win.
“Yes, there were areas that we needed to work on, mainly in defence, but we’ve done that this week and we know the Scarlets this weekend will be another game for us.”
Such are the standards now being set by the Chiefs, victories such as last week are being finely dissected by all and sundry at Sandy Park and Simmonds says that is only helping to raise standards right across the board.
“To score 43 points and seven tries in any game is a good achievement, but to let in 28 points at the other end was not good enough by our standards,” admitted Simmonds. “This week we’ve tried to nail down the simple things in defence and now it’s up to us to take that into the game on Sunday.”
With proven talent all around him on the field - the Chiefs this weekend also welcome back Luke Cowan-Dickie and Dave Ewers after long-term knee injuries - Simmonds says the Scarlets clash offers him and many others the perfect opportunity to lay claim for a role within Exeter’s upcoming plans for Premiership duty.
“I’m in good company,” joked Simmonds. “I know the Anglo-Welsh maybe seen by some as a lower competition, but we take it very seriously here and we’ve always got a very strong squad to put us. For a lot of us, it’s a massive opportunity to go out and get some game time and, hopefully, we can all take it with both hands.”
Standing in the way of the Chiefs, however, will be the Welsh region, who themselves have taken the opportunity to blood a number of their future stars, particularly with a number of their key names either away on international duty or being rested this weekend.
“I’ve watched a few of their games and they look very physical and they are a real running team,” warned Simmonds. “They look as though they have threats all over the field. but we know what we have to do. We’ve talked about our game plan this week and now it’s up to us to go and execute it.”