Joe Simmonds on becoming an MBE and his England ambitions

‘The boys kneel in front of me now, it’s embarrassing!’: Joe Simmonds on becoming an MBE, his ambitions to play for England and aiming for the double-double with the Exeter Chiefs

  • Exeter Chiefs’ Joe Simmonds was awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours list 
  • The No 10 revealed how his team-mates jokingly kneeled in front of him 
  • Simmonds is aiming to achieve the double-double after a successful 2020
  • He also has hopes of playing for England after positive talks with Eddie Jones 

Of course, when the Exeter Chiefs found out that Joe Simmonds was to be awarded an MBE they could not resist a ribbing.

‘As soon as it came out, I got a lot of stick,’ smiles the 24-year-old fly-half bashfully. ‘Tomas Francis got everyone to kneel around me, which made me feel quite embarrassed.

‘[Team-mate] Jonny Hill texted me on the day and I thought it was important. He said, “Joe, ring me – it’s urgent”. Little did I know he’d changed my name to “Joe Simmonds MBE” in his phone. I called saying, “What’s up?” and he wasn’t replying. An hour later it was all over Twitter!’

Exeter Chiefs’ Joe Simmonds has revealed how his team-mates now kneel in front of him after it was announced he had been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours list

His team-mate Jonny Hill took to Twitter to rib the 24-year-old about his wonderful accolade

Hill had stitched Simmonds up royally, posting a screenshot of the captain calling the lock’s phone captioning it with a crown emoji. ‘Only rings when he wants something,’ he replied to a comment.

‘To be honest it hasn’t been too bad,’ adds Simmonds, Exeter’s double-winning skipper. ‘There’s a fun side to it, rather than them just taking the p*** out of me!’

Thank heavens the powers-that-be sent a follow-up note to check Simmonds had seen he was up for the gong, or he’d have missed it entirely. ‘It’s all done by email, they don’t do it via letter, and I’m not very good with mine,’ he explains. ‘They must have emailed in November and I think I just deleted it straight away.

‘Then I looked around mid-December and it was an email marked urgent. I thought I’d better read that.

‘It notified me I’d been put on the list for consideration and you had to accept it. Even to be on the list was mental. I said to my family, “I can’t see myself winning it”.

‘We thought it was one of the lads taking the mickey. I accepted and then a week before it came out on December 30, they told me I’d won the award. That was the last I’ve heard. I’m a bit worried it’s still a joke! My girlfriend is asking me about it most days – she wants to sort her outfit for the Palace!’

The No 10 was notified he had received the award after helping Exeter achieve the double

They do love their own down in Exeter, so any teasing of the freshly bejewelled No 10 is well-meaning. Babyfaced boys from Devon do not often receive honours from the Queen.

‘Coming from a little town like Teignmouth you don’t hear much of these things,’ says Simmonds. ‘It’s a proud moment, not just for my family but for the people who have been supporting me.

‘It definitely means a lot. I never believed I’d even be a professional rugby player or win in Europe and the Premiership and then get an MBE. It just shows that anyone can do it.

‘I was lucky enough to captain the team in the finals – deep down I do feel it’s a bit unfair. You’ve got Jack Yeandle who’s the club captain and everyone who’s been involved in the games and one person wins the award. 

‘My brother Sam and everyone else is very proud and they tell me that most days.’

Simmonds said his brother Sam (left) and the rest of his family are incredibly proud

So while 2020 was a horrendous year for most, it was not so bad for Simmonds and the Chiefs – their trophy cabinet now heaving with prizes.

Alongside Simmonds, director of rugby Rob Baxter was awarded an OBE for moulding Exeter into domestic and European champions. Devon cream has risen to the top.

‘For it being such a hard year for everyone, to win two trophies and then an MBE, 2020 was pretty good in my eyes,’ says Simmonds.

‘It’s not just that, but for the city of Exeter, too. To win those trophies was a lot for us because we’d had hurt in finals before. A lot of the year was about giving back to everyone who supports us.’

It is one of the few times the Chiefs have gained major recognition outside their sphere.

Despite Exeter’s double, Liverpool were the BBC’s Team of the Year at Sports Personality and Eddie Jones is certainly not pilfering Chiefs players for England en masse.

Henry Slade, Jack Nowell and Luke Cowan-Dickie are the only true Exonian England stalwarts, with others flitting in and out. 

Sam Simmonds won seven caps in 2017-18 when Billy Vunipola was injured but has been discarded since, despite stupendous form that saw him crowned European Player of the Year last term.

And so far Joe is left uncapped but feels he is getting closer, after Jones made first contact last autumn when snubbing him.

Simmonds feels he is getting closer to an England call-up after a phone call with Eddie Jones

‘I took that phone call as a positive as before that I’d never spoken to him and he had never really had to phone me because he didn’t think I was in and around it,’ explains the playmaker.

‘It must mean they’ve been looking at me. He said he’s happy with the way I’m playing but just to make sure that I keep improving. I’m trying to do that.

‘I’d love to play for England. If I perform better than the other 10s around me then hopefully I’ll get the chance.

‘For the moment, George Ford and Owen Farrell are playing well for England.’

There is plenty still to do at Sandy Park. On Saturday they face up and coming Bristol, on the back of a galling 34-5 defeat by last year’s beaten finalists Wasps, in a top-of-the-table clash. Then in Europe next week they must beat Toulouse with a bonus point to have a shot at continuing their continental cup defence.

Exeter are looking to repeat their double achievement after a successful 2020

A Covid outbreak wiped out their away fixture against the French, meaning they ‘lost’ the game 28-0. Despite that, Exeter are determined to top their exploits of 2020.

‘Our full focus is on doing the double-double,’ says Simmonds. ‘We know now we’re capable. When the Toulouse game was cancelled we were pretty annoyed, but if we can beat them at home with a bonus point and beat Glasgow away we’ve really got ourselves in a great place. That is all we can do.’

All Simmonds can do now is hope that he is soon recognised as a member of the England squad – not just the British Empire.

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