Eddie’s Kamikaze kids! Jones’ fearless back-rowers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill given chance to show they can work as a unit
- Eddie Jones has named open-sides Tom Curry and Sam Underhill in the same XV
- Curry will play on the open-side with Underhill on the blind-side against Ireland
- Both youngsters will be looking to make their case for the World Cup on Saturday
- England have two more warm-up games to come before travelling to Japan
Eddie Jones will unleash his back-row ‘kamikaze kids’ against Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday, armed with a resounding and decidedly non-PC endorsement of their ability to wreak havoc in tandem.
Tom Curry and Sam Underhill will join forces as two specialist opensides in the same XV, to reflect England’s sudden abundance of riches in what was for so long a problem position.
Curry will wear the No 6 shirt with Underhill operating at seven and their head coach believes they can both have a big impact tomorrow, then at the World Cup in Japan.
Sam Underhill (left) and Tom Curry (right) will start in the back row against Ireland on Saturday
‘They are like the kamikaze kids,’ said Jones. Asked why, he added: ‘Because they hit everything that moves. But off the pitch, they’re nice public schoolboys.’
Underhill has not played for England since last November, with injury keeping him out of this year’s Six Nations. He was supposed to start against Wales in the first World Cup warm-up on August 10, only to be withdrawn after a slight knock in training.
The 23-year-old Bath player is evidently relishing the chance to make his comeback — so much so that he was quite willing to make light of Jones’s new nickname.
‘I resent being thrown into that category with Tom — he has injured far more people in training than I have,’ he quipped. ‘He is a nutter but a healthy disregard for your own well-being is pretty essential so I’ll take it as a compliment.’
England expect the flankers to complement each other, despite usually occupying the same position. Both will be asked to set a ferocious tone in defence and give England the edge at the breakdown. That should come naturally, given how much they hone their combat skills together.
‘We compete all the time,’ said Underhill. ‘In training, I am looking at him and thinking, “I am trying to beat him, to get on the ball more than him”. He is probably thinking the same thing, “I want to beat you because I want the seven shirt”.
‘The key for the two of us is maintaining that level of competition when we are on the same team, but I think we will drive each other and compete with each other because deep down we are still just two schoolkids.’
As if to prove the point, Underhill joked that 20-year-old Curry ‘takes pride in being quite annoying’. In response, the younger man, whose sleep-walking habit has become a source of much hilarity within the camp, argued that he and Underhill — fresh from completing a 1,000-piece jigsaw at the team base in Surrey — ‘are both branded as pretty weird’.
Whatever the personality traits which cause amusement, their playing traits are causing excitement.
‘You’ve got the Hooper-Pocock combination for Australia that people talk about but it’s me and Sam, so we’ve got to work it out for ourselves,’ said Curry. ‘We’ve trained against each other, so I know what he’s about.
‘In terms of his carries, he’s a bit more direct and physical, I’m a bit more feet, hands and trying to spot the gap. He’s a big chop tackler and I’m more around the breakdown.’
Jones has opted to pick Curry at blindside because he is marginally the bigger and the coach said: ‘Physically, for a 20-year-old, he is incredible. I haven’t seen a player like him.’
Eddie Jones has selected a strong XV for the warm-up match against Ireland on Saturday
Jones suggested there is also pragmatism behind the decision to start the two men together, in response to how rucks are being refereed.
‘There’s a lot more contest at the breakdown,’ he said. ‘The tackler is being allowed to stay in the tackle which means the ability to poach has increased. We’ll just have to adapt and pick teams who can cope with this.’
Jones was matter of fact about the decision to unite George Ford, captain Owen Farrell and Manu Tuilagi in midfield for the first time, calling it ‘just another selection strategy for us’.
But it is a strategy which could be seen from the start of a World Cup game.
Captain Owen Farrell starts for the first time in England’s World Cup warm-up series
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