Simmonds lands top award
By Mark Stevens
Sam Simmonds’ remarkable breakthrough campaign seems to get better every week and that continued as he was named Land Rover Discovery of the Season at last night’s Premiership Rugby Awards.
And while the Exeter Chiefs No.8 is revelling in his individual recognition, he is adamant there is still plenty more to come from him in the near future.
Simmonds, 23, has become a key cog in Exeter and England’s back row this term, consistently impressing with his powerful ball-carrying, terrier-like defence and adeptness at the breakdown.
He collected the gong at a glittering ceremony at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London after helping the defending Aviva Premiership Rugby Champions Chiefs to top the regular-season table and book their place in the semi-finals, where they will face Newcastle Falcons at Sandy Park this weekend.
By scoring a hat-trick against London Irish in April, Simmonds became Premiership Rugby’s most prolific try-scorer in history – averaging a try every 76 minutes at that point – and is enjoying the upward trajectory his career is on.
“Everything has come a lot quicker than I imagined it would,” admitted Simmonds. “But it’s key for me to keep looking forward – if I sit back and look at what I’ve achieved so far, then what is yet to come will pass me by.
“I like to think there’s more to come from me! Although I’ve played a lot this season, I’m still relatively new to not only the Chiefs but the England squad as well. This is just the start of my career and if I can push on from here that would be amazing. I want to keep performing – I’ve had a good year and if I can replicate that in the last couple of games and England’s summer tour then I’ll be in good shape.
“It is nice to get the individual recognition. You don’t say it a lot but this is why you work hard – to get recognised for your efforts. Rugby is a team sport, so you’re working as a team to reach your goals but when it does come down to individual awards such as the Land Rover Discovery of the Season, it’s great to be put ahead of the other boys that were nominated.
“There were four other great players I’ve gone ahead of, so on a personal note I’m hugely pleased and privileged to pick it up.”
Simmonds won the award ahead of fellow back-rowers Ruan Ackermann and Jake Polledri (both of Gloucester Rugby) and Jack Willis of Wasps, as well as Wales and Worcester Warriors flyer Josh Adams.
Players aged under-23 on 1 September 2017, and to have featured in eight or more Aviva Premiership Rugby games, were eligible to be named Land Rover Discovery of the Season.
To celebrate Simmonds’ achievement, he will have the opportunity to become a Land Rover Ambassador for the 2018-19 season and joins past winners such as Ellis Genge, Maro Itoje, Billy Vunipola, Joe Launchbury, Owen Farrell and Exeter club-mate, Henry Slade.
Land Rover ambassador David Flatman helped judge the award and said: “It is easy to forget that this is only Sam Simmonds’ first full season of Aviva Premiership Rugby as he has been so good.
“He is so explosive on the ball, carries for fun and isn’t afraid to make tackle after tackle. He might not be as big as some other back-rowers but he has freakish power.
“His form saw him propel himself into the England team and it didn’t take us judges long to choose him to win the award – it is thoroughly deserved for an amazing season.”
To cap a fine night for Simmonds at the annual awards bash, he was selected alongside fellow Exeter team-mates Luke Cowan-Dickie and Don Armand in the BT Sport Premiership Dream Team. Meanwhile, Rob Baxter was narrowly pipped to winning the Director of Rugby for the season by Newcastle's Dean Richards, while Will Chudley was among those shortlisted for the Try of the Season for his score in the away game against Northampton Saints.