Rugby World Cup – highlights from day 21
England defence coach Kevin Sinfield has backed new addition to the Rugby World Cup squad Sam Underhill to have an impact on the remainder of the tournament, tipping him to feature in the quarter-final against Fiji. The Bath flanker has come in for Jack Willis, who was ruled out for the remainder of the campaign with a neck injury sustained in the 71-0 win over Chile.
Underhill has made 27 international caps already and was a member of the 2020 Six Nations winning squad, but dropped out of the squad as Willis and Tom Pearson were initially preferred as back-row options. But he has impressed before and has been given another shot despite not playing for England since July 2022.
Underhill has dealt with a series of injuries over the past year but when asked if Underhill could feature in the quarter-final even though he’d not been part of England’s camp since July, Sinfield said: “Without a shadow of a doubt. He’ll come in hard there’s no doubt about that.
“He’s a smart guy and he’ll pick things up really, really quickly and we require a simple plan anyway because of the time we have had together it is meant to be that way. Sam will be great.
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“We’re really disappointed to lose Jack Willis and wish him the best and want him back on the field as soon as possible. One door closes for someone and another one opens. Sam was outstanding with us during the summer.”
Underhill previously forged a strong relationship with Tom Curry under previous coach Eddie Jones and has been described as a “Test-match animal” by Sinfield who clearly believes that Sunday’s quarter-final with Fiji won’t come too soon for the squad’s latest addition.
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Sinfield reflected on the previous time that Underhill spent with the England squad as he continued to gush over the 27-year-old in a way that may hint that a decision has already been made about his level of involvement against Fiji.
“He trained the house down but unfortunately for whatever reason which I won’t share with you guys he didn’t stay with us,” Sinfield explained. “We followed him closely and stayed in touch. He is a Test-match animal and is a fantastic player. It just shows the quality that we have back in England and we’re delighted he’s been able to join us.
“It is a like-for-like replacement. He brings some differences but many similarities and he’s a great character as well. He knows what it is like to play well at World Cups. He has done it previously and he brings a great deal of experience too.”
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