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'That's nasty': Sam Underhill comeback lasts just 15 minutes

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

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Axed England back-rower Sam Underhill lasted just 15 minutes of his Bath comeback four days after Eddie Jones left him out of the 36-strong national team squad which will assemble in Brighton on Monday to begin preparations for the upcoming Guinness Six Nations. 

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Although he hadn’t played since Boxing Day, the absence of the name of Underhill from Jones’ list made headlines as the openside had started all three Test matches in the unbeaten Autumn Nations Series in November.

Underhill returned to his club after starring at Twickenham but he suffered a head knock in a Premiership fixture versus Gloucester on December 26 and his ensuing absence was a contributory reason why Jones left him out of the reckoning for the early stages of a Six Nations that begins for England with early February trips to Scotland and Italy. 

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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

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.”

The hope was that after a month-long break Underhill would enjoy a sequence of club matches that was to begin on Saturday against Leinster in Europe at The Rec and would be followed by league games versus Harlequins, Saracens, Wasps and Leicester, taking him through to February 19 which would be the weekend before England host Wales at Twickenham.

However, the forward’s comeback endured a false start when Underhill was laid out on the surface at The Rec after coming off the worst when joining Orlando Bailey in tackling Robbie Henshaw five metres out from the English club’s try line. After treatment, Underhill exited to the dressing rooms for a head injury assessment but he didn’t return to take his place back from his replacement, Josh McNally.

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Commenting on the incident for BT Sport, ex-England No8 Lawrence Dallaglio said: “A lot these injuries come from the second or third tackler coming in and it’s Underhill, he gets his head in the wrong place.”

Commentator Alastair Eykyn added: “That is nasty in itself but he has only just come back from concussion problems and it was one of the reasons for his absence from the England Six Nations squad, so this will be a grave concern to club and country.”

Former Ireland skipper Brian O’Driscoll also had his say. “It’s a hip pointer, one of the worst places you can get a head contact from. It’s so strong in there. He just loses his footing immediately… he just couldn’t quite get his head in the right place at the right time to be able to put a forceful tackle in and he was on the wrong side of that collision as a result.”

Underhill exited the pitch on 15 minutes only a minute after fellow back-rower Josh Bayliss had also departed with an injury. The score at that juncture was 0-0 but Bath went on to worryingly struggle. They were 7-33 in arrears by half-time and that score had stretched out to 7-64 by full-time, Jimmy O’Brien becoming the first player for Leinster to ever score four tries for them in one European match.

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