'He's a bit of a freak' -- England's Sam Simmonds steals show on Six Nations debut

Sam Simmonds scored twice and laid on an assist for Exeter teammate Jack Nowell in an impressive Six Nations debut for the England No. 8. Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

ROME, Italy -- If England coach Eddie Jones retained any doubts about Sam Simmonds' suitability as an international No. 8 prior to defeating Italy in the Six Nations, his misgivings would have been allayed by the Exeter forward's barnstorming championship debut.

Simmonds might reduce the average weight of the England pack quite considerably - he weighs around two stone less than Billy Vunipola, the man he was replacing at the base of the scrum - but what he lacks in heft he more than makes up for with speed and graft.

His second try was a case in point. Simmonds sprinted to the line from within the Italian 22, leaving a sea of blue-shirted defenders in his wake.

What made that feat more remarkable was that it came five minutes from the end of a performance that included 23 tackles, none of which were missed, and 80 metres made with ball in hand that resulted not only in a brace of tries but also an assist.

"Life is full of contradictions," was Jones' take when pressed on his original assessment that the Chiefs player was not physical enough to be a Test No. 8.

"He's a bit of a freak Simmo, isn't he? He is very quick," said Jack Nowell, Simmonds' teammate at Exeter and now with England, and who was set up for his concluding try in the rout by the No. 8.

"He's up there with probably the quickest I've played with. A lot of the boys here were saying as well how quick he is, but he's got a big backside so that's where the power comes from."

Simmonds has been a standout performer with the Chiefs for the past two seasons, but his chance with England has arrived largely because of injuries to Vunipola and Nathan Hughes.

Nowell admitted that making the step up from the Aviva Premiership to the Test arena can be a big one, but revealed that it is made easier due to the confidence which the coaching staff at both Sandy Park and Twickenham have instilled in them.

"Simple thing is if you're doing well for your club then there's no reason why you shouldn't be doing well here," he said.

"It's part of the belief that we have as a Chiefs player, as well. No matter what game you're playing or what team you're with, you want to give it your all, you want to give your 100 percent.

"You'll do anything to win with that team. It's the belief that comes through from the club as well. It's simple, the [England] coaches don't want us to change, the reason you're picked is for what you've done with your club."

Simmonds' second score proceeded a celebration made in Exeter as the No. 8 was congratulated by Nowell and fellow clubmates Alec Hepburn and Harry Williams, the former on his first England appearance.

The Chiefs quartet then soaked up the fans' adulation at the full time whistle. Nowell added: "A special moment out there was when Simmo scored and we're celebrating with him and there are four Chiefs boys around you.

"It's pretty awesome to be able to do that."