Reds make shock call to cut veteran forward
RUGBY UNION: Nine-season pillar Rob Simmons has been cut by the Queensland Reds in a big call that indicates the club is backing the youth of Lukhan Tui and Izack Rodda as its top locks for the future.
The Reds announced on Tuesday they would not be renewing the contract of their pack stalwart, who equalled the 112 Queensland appearances of John Eales in his most recent game against the Western Force.
No.8 Leroy Houston, lured home from English club Bath last year by Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, has also been released in a mutual decision with one year still to run on his contract.
He has been unable to force his way into a back-row spot in the Reds side this season.
Jettisoning Simmons, still only 28, seemed implausible a little over 12 months ago when he stepped up to captain Queensland.
He has done everything at the Reds as a valued member of the 2011 Super Rugby-winning side, joining the 100-cap club, leading his state, setting a spotless example off the field and never wavering from his strong one-club loyalty.
Being clearly outplayed by fellow Wallaby locks Adam Coleman (Force), Rory Arnold (Brumbies) and Sam Carter (Brumbies) in local derbies this season could not have helped Simmons' case because he was dropped for last Friday's clash against the Blues in Samoa.
Coach Nick Stiles elected to back Tui and Rodda, both 20, as a starting pairing for the first time instead and gave them a strong vote post-match for their physicality and impact.
The call on Simmons, after he met with Stiles on Monday, comes in a tough week.
He was not picked by the Wallabies in their June Test squad and an AC joint injury sustained at training in Samoa will keep him out for four to six weeks.
Simmons might have have a farewell to come for the Reds if required for the clashes against the Brumbies (July 7) and Highlanders (July 14) when the team winds up its disappointing season after this month's three Tests.
Simmons has plenty still to offer with his background of 71 Tests. While the sheer physicality of his game has been inconsistent this season, he is still one of the best lineout generals in the country, a fine scrummager, skilful and a valued teammate.
Only last week, Cheika said Simmons was far from off the radar as a Test forward for the year.
"He's one of the best locks around when he gets angry ... technically we know he's very good and works hard," Cheika said.