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Sam Simmonds ‘goes with our blessing’, says Exeter boss Rob Baxter

The England forward will head to France’s Top 14 next year.

Image: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

ROB BAXTER SAYS England international Sam Simmonds will leave Exeter with the club’s blessing.

Baxter has insisted there are no issues surrounding back-row forward Simmonds’ move to French champions Montpellier next season.

He is expected to be available for next year’s World Cup but after that will be ineligible to represent his country.

Saracens boss Mark McCall said on Tuesday that he believes the departure overseas of a player in his prime has wider implications for the Gallagher Premiership.

“I say that because Sam is 27, nearing his peak and is now making himself ineligible for England,” McCall said.

“I kind of understand someone who is early 30s doing it after they’ve had their international career and want to experience something different. But to start losing the best young talent in the Premiership, someone like Sam, is a worry.”

rob-baxter Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Exeter rugby director Baxter, though, has adopted a philosophical stance.

I think people sometimes get the wrong idea about this,” Baxter said.

“I talk a lot to the players and staff in that you want people to be in an environment where they can thrive, work very hard, you want them to win and be successful for each other.

“The outcome of that is it means they are attractive propositions for other clubs who want a bit of that success.

“There are going to be some outcomes, and some of those are going to be that they are going to get big contract offers.

“It is not a negative when a player leaves you because someone wants them and can afford to pay them more than you can.

“It is negative when you fall out and a person moves for no positive reason at all. It’s very rare that happens here.

“Sam goes with our blessing for a great adventure, a great opportunity in France.

“He has still got a lot of good rugby left in him, and we had a long chat about it.

“He came to us first and explained. We haven’t been in massive, long, drawn-out contract debates about it. The figures are so far apart that there hasn’t really been a debate.”

The dire finances of Premiership clubs have resulted in the salary cap being reduced to £5 million.

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And, while necessary, reduced wages on offer to players has made it increasingly difficult for English clubs to compete with sides in France and Japan. The fear is that other members of Eddie Jones’ Test squad will follow Simmonds overseas.

The cap for Premiership clubs is due to return to £6.4m for the 2024-45 season.

Baxter added: “Even in the £6.4m cap, you could lose players, particularly to France.

“I suppose with a £5m cap, all of a sudden the attraction of staying in England lessens a little bit because of the difference in the figures.

“There is another argument that if England paid them more per game – that will cause some debate because England players are pretty well paid compared to some other nations – but that’s another way of bridging the gap. Players add up the whole package.

“It’s a challenge and something that is going to happen for a little bit.

“But it is not keeping me awake at night. You have got to keep rolling.”

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