Simon Hammersley ready for biggest game of his career
Simon Hammersley is not shying away from reality – Saturday’s Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-final at Exeter Chiefs is without doubt the biggest game of his life.
The 25-year-old will travel alongside his Newcastle Falcons teammates to Sandy Park for a clash against the defending champions, where a spot in the final at Twickenham is on the line.
They may be the underdogs but the Falcons have captured the imagination this season with their attacking off-the-cuff rugby – less a breath of fresh air, they have been an almighty gale ripping through the league from September to May.
Now, with a date at Twickenham within touching distance, the Falcons have to prove they belong among the elite – just as opponents Exeter once had to do.
But Hammersley is convinced they have what it takes.
“I don’t even know if they had semi-finals when we were last up in the top four so everyone is buzzing,” Hammersley said.
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“We basically said in pre-season that we have always targeted the top six in previous years but what is stopping us from winning it?
“That is a different mentality and it has shown. We have won games we would normally have lost and now we are getting over the finish line.
“We have got the best squad we have ever had and that drives up the standards in training massively. We have two or three fighting for every position.
“We have been in the Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-finals, the Challenge Cup semi-finals and the A League semi-finals. Hopefully we can win this one.”
With the likes of Vereniki Goneva and Sinoti Sinoti lighting up Kingston Park, along with a sturdy pack and never-say-die spirit, Newcastle have become a force to be reckoned with under the calm stewardship of Dean Richards.
Yet to reach Twickenham, they face arguably the toughest test in English rugby.
The Chiefs have it all. A monstrous pack, slippery backs, a raucous home stadium and, perhaps most importantly, the experience of winning.
Hammersley is aware of the size of the task they face. But he insists they have the togetherness to see it through.
“A lot of the players have developed. There is a core group of players which have grown together and those combinations have worked really well,” he said.
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“And then when you add some new talent, it all compliments each other nicely. Getting to Twickenham is the aim and that would be massive.
“We have nothing to lose at Exeter. We will be going there to express ourselves and enjoy it. It would be a great achievement if we can pull it off.
“We have often struggled down there. Exeter have a team full of big ball-carriers, great ball-players in the middle like Joe Simmonds and then some dangerous outside backs like Jack Nowell and Olly Woodburn.
“You know they are all great players. It will be a tough task to beat them.
“Every team that comes up now looks at Exeter and thinks ‘that is how to do it’. We are on our way there.
“We have invested in our academy and players playing year in and year out are now producing. They are the team we all want to emulate.”
Beating them on their own patch is the first step.
Hammersley added: “It is huge for all of us. We have nothing to lose, hopefully we can go down there and cause an upset.”