‘He’s quick and a handful’ – Exeter boss backs Sam Simmonds to shine for Lions

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Sam Simmonds has been urged by Exeter to fight for his place in the British and Irish Lions Test team in the belief he could pose a unique threat to South Africa.

Simmonds was picked for the tour despite winning the last of his seven England caps in 2018, and Chiefs head coach Ali Hepher insists his pace and power could be important assets in the series against the world champion Springboks.

Less than a fortnight after being confirmed in Warren Gatland’s squad, the explosive number eight seized his place in Gallagher Premiership history by breaking the record for tries scored in a season.

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A hat-trick against London Irish on Tuesday night overhauled the milestone of 17 that had stood for 23 years to leave Hepher reflecting on what he could achieve in South Africa.

“I’ll be hugely excited to see how Sam goes, but he’s got to attack it and get after that place in the starting XV,” Hepher said.

“Over fast and hard grounds, he’s going to be quick and a handful. He’s quicker than anyone else in the northern hemisphere as a forward. But you’ve got to use him in the right way.

“We position him in the right places and get him on the ball plenty of times. On certain moves and shapes you can look at him like that eighth back.

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“We try to manipulate situations for those things to happen. If you manage him smartly, he’s a handful.

“The guys do the hard work to get him into those positions, but there is no-one better at converting.

“And defensively don’t underestimate him because he can make some big shots. He’s got good leg drive in the tackle that can put us on the front foot.

“You look at his Lions call-up now and that’s fully justified – he’s been phenomenal all season.”

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