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Sam Simmonds focused only on Premiership Final despite Lions counter-attraction

Sam Simmonds could be forgiven for thinking of Murrayfield when he runs out at Twickenham today.

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A Lion-in-waiting, Simmonds’ new British and Irish team mates start the tour without him in Edinburgh.

He even has his Lions bags packed and ready for when he flies to Johannesburg on Monday.

But English club rugby’s player of the season is otherwise engaged trying to power Exeter to Premiership Final glory against Harlequins.

And he insists there will be no divided loyalties as he focuses fully on the champions’ trophy defence.

Simmonds said: “It’s about taking the season week by week, game by game, day by day.

“I’m really looking forward to the Lions but right in front of me at the moment is winning a Premiership. That’s the challenge I set myself at the start of the year.

Simmonds’ Lions team mates train at Murrayfield ahead of today’s game with Japan

“As much as it’s great to get to a final you only remember the winners. We’ve been there before and lost and it hurts. We definitely have it in our heads that we’re there to win silverware.”

Exeter suspect the neutrals will be rooting for Quins, what few neutrals there are in a ludicrously restricted crowd of 10,000.

The Londoners won the hearts of so many with their epic comeback from 28-0 against top seeds Bristol a week ago.

Simmonds will today look to add to his record-breaking haul of 20 tries in a Premiership campaign
Simmonds will look to add to his record-breaking haul of 20 tries in a Premiership campaign

But you don’t get to six successive grand finals without being a formidable team and Chiefs are worthy favourites.

“The motivation, not just for me but for the team, the coaches and everyone here at Exeter, is to win and to get another trophy,” added No.8 Simmonds, who somehow continues to fly under England’s radar.

“We want one more to our name – one more in the trophy cabinet.

Harlequins head into final on massive high after astonishing comeback win at Bristol last weekend
Harlequins head into final on massive high after astonishing comeback win at Bristol last weekend

“The whole England thing I just kind of put to the back of my head. In previous years it might have affected me; being younger and not getting selected.

“But if you stop and worry you get lost in what’s happening right in front of you.”

Stuart Hogg, seen by many as the Lions’ starting fullback, only makes the Exeter bench. Springboks centre Andre Esterhuizen returns for Quins.

Quins: Green; Lynagh, Marchant, Esterhuizen, Murley; Smith, Care; Marler, Baldwin, Louw, Symons, Lewies (capt), Chisholm, Kenningham, Dombrandt.

Replacements: Gray, Garcia Botta, Collier, Lamb, Lawday, Landajo, Tapuai, Northmore.

Exeter: Nowell; Cuthbert, Slade, Devoto, O’Flaherty; J Simmonds (capt), Maunder, Hepburn, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Gray, Hill, Kirsten, Capstick, S Simmonds.

Replacements: Yeandle, Moon, Street, Lonsdale, Armand, Townsend, Skinner, Hogg.


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