Lions call-up for ex-Pirates is ‘wonderful’ says Paver
Luke Cowan-Dickie, who cut his rugby teeth in the Newlyn & Penzance junior section, in action for England against France at Twickenham; inset, Sam Simmonds played 52 games during a loan spell at the Pirates. Main image: Phil Mingo/PPAUK; Inset: Simon Bryant/PPAUK
12th May 2021
By Gareth Davies
Luke Cowan-Dickie and Sam Simmonds’ British Lions call-ups are ‘simply wonderful’ for the Cornish Pirates, according to joint-head coach Alan Paver.
Both Exeter Chiefs stars will be heading to South Africa this summer after they were named by Lions chief Warren Gatland in his 37-man touring party. However, there was no place in the squad for Cowan-Dickie’s fellow Cornishman Jack Nowell, who limped off injured in Exeter’s 41-10 Premiership win over Worcester on Saturday.
For Cowan-Dickie, who cut his formative rugby teeth in the Penzance & Newlyn junior ranks, his squad place, along with fellow hookers Ken Owens and Jamie George, looked nailed on.
For Simmonds, who has continually been overlooked by England, despite his blistering club form, his inclusion has come as a surprise - five years after he spent a successful spell at the Mennaye, playing 52 games for the Pirates on loan from Exeter.
“We are obviously over the moon for the players,” Paver told the Voice in an exclusive interview. “For the Pirates to have had some contribution to their careers is wonderful, simply because we have a connection with them and with someone like Luke, he is local.
“But what is special about Sam specifically is that he hasn’t had the recognition from the English set-up. We saw him first hand and then to see what he has done in the Premiership, to get the recognition for the Lions is simply wonderful. From a club and personal perspective, we are over the moon to have been part of their journey.”
On Cowan-Dickie’s call-up specifically, Paver feels that this could prove inspirational for aspiring youngsters, while lauding the toughness of the Heamoor raised hooker, which he saw first hand.
Paver added: “All those young children will be watching Lions and they will see his name and connect straight away. The connection is very powerful because Cornwall is such a wonderful place with a strong identity. At the same time, it’s not easy to break into the higher echelons of sport, simply because people down here don’t get the same exposure.
“The coaching is good, but we haven’t got the same quality of facilities so the moment you get somebody who breaks through into those levels, you know they have got qualities that are above and beyond. They have to be single-minded and athletically gifted with Luke an epitome of that.
“He is extremely tough and I know because I have played against him. At a young age he was tough, and he has worked extremely hard by spending a good few years at Plymouth in the mud at Brickfields playing against guys like myself and Rob Elloway.
“He stood up and was counted at that level so go onto do what he has now with Exeter, England and now the Lions, will inspire any young player looking on.”
Paver played alongside Simmonds during the latter’s time spent here in Cornwall, so did he see a future European Player of the Year whilst playing in the Championship?
“It was very difficult for anyone to have predicted that,” Paver revealed. “In terms of his athletic ability and his single mindedness, you could see the raw materials that he could do something. Another thing I would say is that he wasn’t this 6ft 4, 110kg number eight, but Exeter saw something different, that led to him being an x-factor with stand out quality.
“He had a hard time with us initially as after playing every week at Plymouth Albion, he came to us and was up against some pretty good back-rowers. It took him a while to get going and find his place, but once he got going, he quickly moved through the gears. He has an ability in contact, be it defence or attack, that is very powerful, and his other quality is that he is very determined about what he wants to achieve.”