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Sam Underhill set for Bath start four days after England exclusion

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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Excluded England back-rower Sam Underhill will play his first club match in four weeks when he lines out for Bath in this Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup match at home to Leinster. The 25-year-old openside was a starter in all three of his country’s Autumn Nations Series wins at Twickenham but he was a high profile omission when left out of the 36-strong Guinness Six Nations squad named last Tuesday by Eddie Jones. 

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In a climate where a number of long-serving England regulars under Jones – the likes of George Ford and the Vunipola brothers – have been headline exclusions from the Test squad for the 2021/22 season, it was initially thought that Underhill had become another big-name casualty. 

However, Jones soon clarified the matter and rather than have Underhill training with England ahead of their February 5 tournament start away to Scotland and the following weekend’s round two match in Italy on February 13, it was felt best that he gets himself going again at Bath following his recent layoff. 

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Check out the appearance by Sam Underhill in the Beyond 80: Knocked documentary by RugbyPass
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Check out the appearance by Sam Underhill in the Beyond 80: Knocked documentary by RugbyPass

Having played three club matches after his November England duty, Underhill suffered a head knock in a Boxing Day appearance for Bath in the Gallager Premiership and he has now had a month-long break to get ready for a sequence of club matches that begins against Leinster in Europe at The Rec. 

This will be followed by league games at home to champions Harlequins and away to Saracens and Wasps before the February 19 match at home to leaders Leicester which falls the weekend before the third round England game at home to Wales in the Six Nations, the fixture Underhill will be hoping he will be recalled for if all goes well with his club comeback. 

Sam is not quite ready,” explained Jones about the absence of the back-rower from his latest England squad selection. “He has had a fairly truncated period since the autumn but we are hopeful he will get himself fit and match ready for later in the tournament.”

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Underhill has been included in a Bath XV against Leinster that features new England pick Orlando Bailey at out-half along with prop Will Stuart and second-row Charlie Ewels. That trio will join up with the England squad in Brighton on Monday. Scotland pick Cameron Redpath is also a Bath starter on Saturday in a fixture where the opposition have Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton chosen to start at No10. 

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