3 March 2023
Rob Simmons has emphasised the need to re-establish the form that preceded London Irish’s 25-22 defeat to Leicester Tigers last time out in the Gallagher Premiership.
The Exiles travel north to face Newcastle Falcons this Sunday in Round 19 of the league competition, and from the outset, the Wallaby veteran called for the team to return to the winning ways that saw them take four consecutive league victories recently.
Only six games remain in the west Londoners’ schedule for the 2022/23 season, with Simmons and Irish yearning for a consistent run of form to conclude what has been another rollercoaster year.
He also commented on capitalising on the environment the Club is operating at present, following on from the Premiership Rugby Under-18 Academy League title lift and reaching the Premiership Rugby Cup final.
“The Club is in a really good place at the moment, it’s developing talent and playing some great rugby so hopefully we can kick on and turn it into fruition as more younger guys come through,” the lock said.
“It’s a proper environment, no one gets a free ride and we have to stay on form.
“If we can keep playing some positive rugby and be on the right side of the results, then we can still have our shot.
“In reality it hasn’t come down to games being must-win just yet, but that winning mindset is always our approach each match, and that will continue.
“The next couple of weeks will be telling though, and we’re striving to be that team that maintains a good run of form.”
The adage projected by the team through the season is to not get too high after wins and not too low with defeats, and Simmons is sticking to the pragmatic approach following last weekend’s loss to Tigers.
“Internally, I think everyone knew that there was a win in waiting there throughout the match, and picking up points was something definitely achievable.
“It was something we let slip, so naturally that comes with a lot of disappointment.
“We’ve experienced that death of the game at the end, we feel we have strong weapon there at the set-piece, but it wasn’t our turn, and we couldn’t get it done.
“But that’s beauty of rugby, we’ve dusted ourselves off and move on because we can’t hang around in that mindset of living in the past too much.”
Simmons has projected a contented attitude both on and off the park this season, playing as a squad member that is enjoying his time in Exiles’ green alongside his Clubmates.
It’s no surprise, the lineout linchpin has had the opportunity to flex his aerial prowess as one of the pillars of the Irish set-piece, collecting the second-most lineout steals (eight) and third-most lineouts overall (75) in the Premiership this term.
This weekend, he could face off against the pace-setter in the aforementioned categories in former Exile Sebastian de Chaves, promising to be a special contest on Tyneside.
“I have enjoyed coming over here and making new connections, it’s been a challenge playing rugby up here after hearing a lot about it.
“That factors like the weather and other things have to be considered when thinking of the best approach in the way we play, and people like Declan [Kidney] and Les [Kiss] have helped me in every step of the way.
“I didn’t feel there was too much pressure for me to come in and assume responsibility, the coaches believed I could bring my experience and calmness for certain situations into the team – hopefully they think I’ve delivered!
“The style of play was something I felt came as second nature, I grew up playing touch rugby most afternoons down south.
“You’d learn how to throw balls around and know when to hold on, no matter what position you are, so what we are doing now lends itself to our skillsets and is really good fun!”
Irish’s last visit to Kingston Park saw them end an eight-year drought in the North-East with a convincing six try, 42-14 win over Newcastle Falcons.
Simmons and his teammates remain acutely aware of the threat their opponents pose approaching Round 19, after Dave Walder’s side took held the lead approaching the final quarter of the reverse fixture at the Gtech this season.
“Newcastle is always a great challenge for us, and that is emphasised even more when they play at home.
“They have a really electric back three and as a team can turn a game on its head.
“You think you might be dominating a game, but they possess a squad that can change that quickly.
“They’re a pretty good team and when they get their sail up, they can bring it home.
“We all know that they are quite a threat and have bagged some big results this season, just like ourselves, but the predominant focus within the group is working on us as a team.”