Wallabies lock Rob Simmons was always adamant he wasn’t done in Australian rugby and it seems the second rower is beginning to prove it.
Coming in from the Test wilderness to start against New Zealand in Dunedin in August, Simmons has since put together some of his best rugby in the past 18 months, after being sent packing by Queensland.
After missing the June Series altogether and being left without a Super Rugby home, Simmons turned his focus on redemption, with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika handing him a reprieve in July’s Newcastle camp.
At the time the 28-year-old said he was far from done and when he was announced as a new Waratahs recruit, having eschewed potential overseas options, he reiterated his belief he had more to give in Australia and for the Wallabies.Since that Dunedin game, Simmons has again become a regular feature of the Wallabies’ 23.
“That (return) might have been the result of the hard work before that,” Simmons said.
“A big moment for me.
“The mindset I took into that was trying to get some consistency here and do what you can.
“It’s not as though you just lose how to play footy overnight so it’s just doing the good things more consistently and we knew that.
“There’s still more work to do but it’s good to be able to be back on the field.”
Aside from simple toiling, Simmons can’t quite articulate the change in his rugby in the past six weeks, but he’s appreciating every moment he can play for the Wallabies.
“I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just good to be back out there playing and to be given the opportunity to be able to represent my country and be able to improve,” he said.
For the first time in recent memory against the All Blacks, the Wallabies’ locking department won’t be facing Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, with the latter remaining in New Zealand after losing his unborn baby.
Whitelock has featured in just six Tests against Australia without Retallick, the most recent in 2011.
Regular replacement Luke Romano will also be missing, adding some intrigue to the New Zealand second row options.Absences haven’t hurt New Zealand in recent Tests, with an easy 36-10 win over Argentina in Buenos Aires followed by a thriller in South Africa, handing them the Rugby Championship for a second straight season.
Asked if the Wallabies were going in with nothing to lose, Simmons flipped the proposition.
“There’s plenty to gain,” he said.
“You’re coming up against the world number one team you still want to see what you’ve got and challenge yourselves against them and get the win.
“We’re trying to improve every game and I suppose the last two games, one was a draw and one was a win but in isolation there were improvements there that we’re looking for to move forward from there.”
The Wallabies take on the All Blacks on Saturday October 21 in the third Bledisloe clash, kicking off at 7pm local, 8pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Network Ten, Win and via RUGBY.com.au.