The pair, both playing in their first World Cup, have been dubbed the “kamikaze kids” by England coach Eddie Jones with their hard-tackling style helping to set the tone in defence.
Here, the PA news agency takes a statistical look at their impact and the task awaiting them in Yokohama.
The kamikaze kids
He produced eye-catching plays both without the ball – a turnover followed moments later by a crunching tackle on wing Reece Hodge – and with it, entering the line to send Jonny May in for the opening try.
That is just a microcosm of the blindside flanker’s work, though, with 46 tackles in his four games, 27 carries for 68 metres, 15 passes and an offload with just two handling errors.
James Haskell has revealed an explosive exchange with Brodie Retallick, moments after New Zealand beat England in the first match of their 2014 test series ?https://t.co/hXPawXIZB6
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 23, 2019
Underhill has been similarly tenacious, matching Curry’s tackle count of 46 despite playing one game fewer – the pair have combined for a 90 per cent tackle success rate. The openside has also gained over 50 metres despite carrying only 12 times.
Here comes the crunch
Impressive as the England pair have been, they – along with number eight Billy Vunipola – are now set to go up against arguably the best back row in the tournament, with Kiwi captain Kieran Read at number eight and Ardie Savea and Sam Cane either side of him.
The two All Blacks flankers have a combined tackle success rate of 95 per cent, with openside Cane making 31 in three games and Savea 24 in four.
Sam Underhill believes in order to reduce injury rates and ensure player safety the rules regarding the breakdown need to be cleaned up and inforced. #SamUnderhill #BathRugby #EnglandRugby pic.twitter.com/8Lk5bhvRGp
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 6, 2019
While those raw numbers are lower than for their England counterparts, that may be largely a product of New Zealand’s control of possession – also reflected in their combined 38 passes and 41 carries, with Savea racking up a hefty 151 metres and beating 11 defenders.
Having admittedly played a game more – Pocock five and Hooper four – the Wallaby pair have combined for 82 carries for 213 yards, 66 tackles at a 95 per cent success rate and 31 passes, but could not see their team past England.
At number eight, Read outshines Vunipola 36-26 in the tackle count and has a slightly higher success rate. Their carry numbers are similar, 38-36 in Vunipola’s favour, with their different styles reflected in Vunipola leading 94-59 in metres and Read by 27 passes to 14.More News
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now