Sam Underhill Is The Back-Row Option Eddie Jones Cannot Ignore
Sam Underhill increased his England stock tenfold this weekend with a stand out, bone shaking performance in an otherwise lacklustre showing from Bath against Northampton.
Northampton played extremely well which is sure to settle some nerves after their rout at the hands of Saracens at Twickenham two weeks ago but it was the debutant Underhill who stole the show.
Throughout the game Northampton were clearly the side in control, eventually winning the game comfortably 24 – 6. Bath never seemed able to live with Northampton’s power game, Courtney Lawes in particular imposed his sizeable presence firmly on the away side.
Before he was forced off after making two successive tackles at 67 minutes (a disappointing but one might argue, fitting conclusion), Underhill had made a shattering 23 tackles including this one, with Harry Mallinder doing his best impersonation of a man running into a brick wall.
— BT Sport Rugby (@btsportrugby) September 15, 2017
Minutes before the 21-year-old had hammered Courtney Lawes on the Bath 5 metre line at 66 minutes. Lawes had carried hard all game but was picked up and driven backwards by Underhill, losing the ball in the process as he tried to recycle.
To put it into perspective 23 Tackles in 67 minutes is a tackle every 3 minutes. Take away from that 67 minutes the time taken for scrums, lineouts and attacking play when you don’t have the opportunity to smash anyone and the statistic becomes even more impressive.
He is a man with one England Cap to his name and who must be firmly in the sights of Eddie Jones and the England set-up. As the young flanker was receiving treatment on the floor following the collision that eventually ended his contribution that evening, the cameras showed Eddie Jones leaving his seat and walking through the stands. Perhaps he had already seen enough. The level of work rate and aggression put on display by Underhill is sure to put him at the forefront of the England management’s thinking come the Autumn internationals.
The idea of requiring an ‘out and out 7’ is a little outdated, however the skill set that Underhill brings is unrivalled within the current backrow options that England has. The dogged single-mindedness of his performance at Franklin’s Gardens was one that Neil Back would have been proud of. Granted, he didn’t really carry or pass the ball, but quite frankly with a performance like that who cares!
Whether he, or his body can maintain that level of intensity and physicality in the long premiership season is something to keep a close eye on but he is a player with endless, lethal potential.
Needless to say that Haskell, Robshaw (and even the Curry brothers) will be watching his performances with interest….