November 10, 2017 15:28 GMT by theguardian.com

Sam Underhill told to be a defensive leader on second England cap

Sam Underhill told to be a defensive leader on second England cap

Sam Underhill has been challenged to produce a ‘dominant performance’ against Argentina, having been appointed one of Eddie Jones’s two leaders of a defence tasked with establishing itself as the best in the world

Sam Underhill has been challenged to produce a “dominant performance” for England against Argentina on Saturday, having been appointed one of Eddie Jones’s two leaders of a defence tasked with establishing itself as the best in the world.

Underhill wins only his second cap but has excelled for Bath this season, averaging 15 tackles per match, and has the chance to cement himself as England’s first-choice openside flanker with Tom Curry out until February following wrist surgery.

He was England’s top tackler on his debut during the summer tour of Argentina and the defence coach, Paul Gustard, has urged Underhill to shine on his first Twickenham Test appearance. “Sam will be a defensive leader for us this weekend. It’s important that he stamps some authority in that area though action and direction,” said Gustard.

“What I expect from Sam is a dominant performance. He is a physical player who has stopping power, can hit people backwards and take momentum away in attack. On the other side of the ball he must clear out efficiently and effectively.”

While Underhill impressed on his England debut against the Pumas, Jones’s side shipped 25 points, having also conceded 34 in the first Test seven days earlier. On Saturday England face Argentina for the last time before meeting them at the 2019 World Cup and Gustard has demanded defensive improvements on the road to Japan.

“We want to have the best defence in the world, whatever percentage increase that equates to I don’t care,” added Gustard. “I want the best defence in the world and I’ve told that to Eddie and told that to the team. We had a good meeting on Tuesday and I imagine that Eddie wants me to deliver the best defensive team in the world. Any team that wins the World Cup, apart from the last one when the best attack also won, has the best defence.”

At only 21 and considering his lack of experience at Test level, it would appear a big ask for Underhill – along with the outside-centre Jonathan Joseph – to assume the added responsibility. Gustard has no such concerns, however. “He prides himself on his defensive ability, people can lead through two things – through action or through voice. He’s not a Haskell in terms of how he talks but his action is excellent,” said Gustard.

“You ask people to hit, he hits; you ask people to contest, he contests; you ask people to get off the line, he gets off the line. People see that behaviour in him and they have respect for him because they’ve been hit by him, they’ve seen him hit or they’ve watched him in training.”

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