sport news CHRIS FOY: Sam Simmonds won't be the last high-profile name to say au revoir to ... trends now
Sam Simmonds is joining Montpellier next summer and good luck to him. He is bound to be a big hit in France, as Zach Mercer has been — and more English talent will follow him across the Channel.
The era of players deciding, en masse, to stay in the Premiership in the hope of earning Test call-ups is surely coming to an end, not just for economic reasons but due to lifestyle considerations and pure sporting fulfilment. The Gallic game is thriving while the problems stack up here, so an exodus is increasingly inevitable.
At 27, Simmonds can see that the England No 8 shirt is likely to elude him. Billy Vunipola’s performances in Australia were a reminder of his credentials. With Mercer returning to Gloucester and Alex Dombrandt marginally ahead in the pecking order, the Devonian has decided a change is in order.
Sam Simmonds is due to join Montpellier and he won't be the last player to move to France
On firm pitches in the Top 14, against French club sides full of heavy forward units, Simmonds will be able to showcase his staggering pace and finishing class in elite company. It remains to be seen whether the move will leave him ineligible for World Cup selection, but the whole RFU policy against picking players based abroad is bound to come under renewed pressure.
With the salary cap reduced and clubs here suffering hardship, more leading lights will weigh up offers from France and if a host of them migrate, whoever takes over from Eddie Jones will want the option to choose his best possible team. It might challenge rugby’s whole culture of protectionism — and not before time.
The game is too rigid and restricted, as unions try to prevent stars from defecting to other countries. England or Wales or Ireland might just benefit from having a handful of experienced players based in the Top 14, to provide a different perspective, but the emphasis is always on precious preparation time.
Zach Mercer has also had success in France in recent years, but will soon return to England
To allow more freedom of movement, a solution would be for World Rugby to enhance Regulation 9, governing player release, by ensuring it serves unions and clubs alike. Ring-fence Test windows properly — strictly — but make them firmly controlled and then also restrict the additional get-togethers which the richer countries can engineer.
Level the playing field by giving all international sides a week in camp before fixtures. That way, the