Sam Simmonds admits he is living the dream after breaking into Exeter Chiefs’ team this season, but charts his rise back to the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s, after winning the Player of the Tournament.
The 22-year-old forward captained the Chiefs side that reached the final, where they ultimately lost out to Wasps.
Since then, Simmonds and the Chiefs have gone from strength to strength – with the flanker playing a key role in their fine end to the season, which saw them set a new Aviva Premiership Rugby record of eight successive bonus-point wins.
Simmonds collected his award at Wednesday’s glittering Aviva Premiership Awards ceremony at the London Lancaster Hotel, where Wasps Jimmy Gopperth was named Aviva Premiership Player of the Year.
And now he wants to kick on after a superb 12 months.
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) May 18, 2017
“It feels great to win the award, especially after a great Singha 7s for us. I really liked captaining the side but to have that onus of leading the Chiefs side out in whatever competition is very proud” he said.
“Hopefully in this year’s Singha I will get to do it all again. I see the Singha 7s as a great stepping stone for us younger boys.
“I was probably one of the oldest ones in the team, but it was a great chance to lay down a marker and show what we can do personally and as a team.
“I think Rob [Baxter] and all the coaches see every competition as a chance to win, we go flat-out regardless of what it is. And that only helps.
“It put me in good stead for the season. I went down to play for Cornish Pirates early in the season and get some game-time down there.
“And then since Christmas I have played a lot more for the Chiefs and it has been a good way to put my foot in the door.”
Exeter host Saracens in the first Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-final on Saturday in a rematch of the 2016 Final – which the Londoners won.
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) May 19, 2017
But Exeter finished above the European Champions Cup winners this season, and Simmonds can’t wait for the match after being named on the replacement bench.
“It has been a great run. On a team level and personal level, we could not have asked for anymore from anyone in the squad,” he added.
“We have been struck with injuries in the last couple of months and I think that shows how strong the cohesion is in the team.
“When you do lose the types of players like Dave Ewers, people have stepped up.
“We are ready to perform in these big games. That is what we strive to do as a team and as individuals, so it has been a very exciting last couple of months for the team and the squad.
“It is massive for the squad and the fans.”
Tickets to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final on 27 May at Twickenham are now on sale. If you want to have an unforgettable day out at club rugby’s best Cup Final then click here for tickets.