An Australian representative from Schools through the Under-19 and Under-20 grades, ROB SIMMONS’ progress slowed last year as the second-row competition from Sitaleki Timani and Kane Douglas limited his opportunities.While the injury to his Queensland locking partner James Horwill, and the expected retirement of Nathan Sharpe, looked like it would open up further advancement for Simmons, Sharpe’s decision to keep going and the rise of the young Waratahs’ locks laid down the challenge for the now 24-year-old Queenslander.His cause wasn’t helped on the Spring Tour by suspension for a tip tackle during the opening game of the trip in Paris which meant that he was unable to feature again, bringing an early end to a year that had promised much more than it ultimately delivered.Simmons’ tally of seven appearances, all but two of which came as a substitute, represented a retreat from his 2011 statistics, where he appeared in 10 of the 13 Tests played by Australia (starting in four), despite facing competition from the experienced trio of Horwill, Sharpe and the returning Dan Vickerman.Raised in Theodore in country Queensland, Simmons made his Test debut off the bench in front of his home Brisbane crowd during the 2010 Tri Nations opener against South Africa, being one of seven Australian players who featured in the commanding 30-13 win over the then reigning Tri Nations champions, who were on debut in the tournament that night.The Sunnybank club second rower appeared four times as a replacement for Australia during his maiden Tri Nations before being included on the Spring Tour where he gained his first two Test starts during the wins over Italy and France. Simmons’ personal development was added to on that trip when he took on responsibility for calling the Qantas Wallabies lineout against Italy; a duty he has taken up this year with Queensland.The initial growth Simmons achieved was highlighted by his development as a dominant second rower in Super Rugby three years ago, where the partnership with Horwill proved critical as the Reds stormed to their maiden Super Rugby title. Significantly, Simmons and Horwill twice bettered the All Black duo of Brad Thorn and Sam Whitelock that year as the Reds banked consecutive victories over the Crusaders during round robin play and then in the Super Rugby final.Simmons had made just three appearances for Queensland, and all from the bench, prior to 2010 when Horwill was rubbed out for the year after just two rounds of Super Rugby due to a knee ligament injury. The captain’s absence pushed Simmons into the spot light, and he didn’t disappoint, providing the same abrasive edge to the Queensland pack that he was later to offer the Wallabies, as the Reds beat three of the four eventual semi-finalists en-route to a fifth-place finish.That performance built up the belief within the squad, laying a foundation which was added to during the following year’s title run. Simmons’ home town was hit badly in the state-wide floods Queensland suffered at the start of that title-winning season. The flooding impacted directly on Simmons, who was forced to return to Brisbane early, in order to start pre-season training, due to doubts that he would be able to get out of Theodore because of the spread of water, had he stuck to his original schedule.He grew up watching Queensland and Australia’s premier second row John Eales, who he cites as his favourite player when he was a child.Fast Fact: Rob Simmons schooled at The Southport School on the Gold Coast, being one of five old boys of that facility to return there in the last two years as Qantas Wallabies when the team has trained at the school. Nathan Sharpe, Scott Higginbotham, Luke Morahan and James Slipper also attended TSS. While at Southport, Simmons made the Australian Schoolboys team of 2006 where his team-mates included fellow future Wallabies Quade Cooper and Rod Davies.
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21 MAY 2013