Joe Simmonds: Exeter Chiefs fly-half improving ahead of new season
Exeter fly-half Joe Simmonds says his confidence and game management are improving ahead of the new season.
The 22-year-old only made first start in March 2018, but became Exeter's first-choice as last season wore on and started June's Premiership final.
Simmonds is again set to compete with veteran Gareth Steenson as the Chiefs' starting number 10 this season.
"I've got to take responsibility of not just my game, but pushing the lads around as well," he told BBC Sport.
"Having me and Steeno here really helps us through training as we want to play, we push each other to the maximum."
Despite his youth, Simmonds could be running a set of backs that includes Scotland's Stuart Hogg, England duo Jack Nowell and Henry Slade, former Wales wing Alex Cuthbert and Australia scrum-half Nic White once the World Cup ends.
But he says he is confident he can step up to the level needed as Exeter aim to go one better domestically and try and get out of their Champions Cup group.
"You have to be that confident and you have to be that leader," said Simmonds.
"I know I have to talk and I know I have to boss people around, but I have to focus on my game as well, I can't get too ahead of myself."
'Lots of little boxes have been ticked'
Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter says Simmonds' improvement has been noticeable as he becomes more used to the team's style of play.
"He's been able to understand how we want to play and where he can make our game work, and that's the most important thing for an Exeter Chiefs player to understand first, how they fit into the jigsaw," he told BBC Sport.
"He's done that very well, very quickly, and during that time all the other parts of the game he's maturing at, so his game management is improving, his communication is improving, how he's driving meetings and driving training, all those things are improving, all the things that will come with his experience.
"It's been lots of little boxes that have been ticked, and what he's got to do is he's got to keep improving in all aspects of his game.
"I already think he's looking more mature in this pre-season than last pre-season, and that should only grow and develop, but the most important thing for him is whatever happens, however he changes, he's got to keep playing well because Gareth's performing well in training, performed well in our first-round game with Bath and is there snapping at his heels."