Australia vs England: Sam Underhill joins Maro Itoje in withdrawing from third Test

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Ruled out: Sam Underhill  (AFP /AFP via Getty Images)
Ruled out: Sam Underhill (AFP /AFP via Getty Images)

Eddie Jones has been dealt a huge blow with the news that Sam Underhill and Maro Itoje will both miss Saturday’s deciding Test against Australia in Sydney due to concussion.

Flanker Underhill suffered a head knock and went off after 58 minutes of England’s 25-17 win in Brisbane which set up this weekend’s finale.

Jones said straight after the match that Itoje, who also took a bang to the head, would miss the game and that was confirmed by England this morning. But flanker Jack Willis is back in contention, after missing out on a bench spot at Brisbane with a rib injury, and could leapfrog his way into the starting line-up.

Underhill had two concussions in December, returned for England in the last game of the Six Nations but was not picked for the opener against the Wallabies in Perth. The Bath man had the better of the breakdown battle with Australia captain Michael Hooper and, with Tom Curry already back home, England need another specialist on the floor.

Luckily, Wasps’ Willis fits the bill and will battle it out with Lewis Ludlam, on the bench for the first two Tests, for a starting spot.

Ollie Chessum is likely to come into the second row after fronting up for 40 minutes as a replacement for Itoje and Jonny Hill, who did the job for a half, would continue calling the line-outs. With only one Test left, England have decided against calling for replacements.

Losing the pair is a big blow, but the body count would have felt worse if England were out of the series.After the shambles of a second half in Perth, the odds were against England taking the series into a decider, but they have. They head to the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday level for their first match at the venue since 1975 and Australia’s first Test there since 1986.

Sydney Football Stadium, where England played in 2016, is being renovated, hence the switch next door to an iconic arena that brings English cricket fans out in a cold sweat.Jones was a spectator at the SCG during the infamous riot of 1971, when touring cricket captain Ray Illingworth led his team off the pitch in an Ashes Test after bottles were thrown at quick bowler John Snow.

For now, after Brisbane, the bottles have stopped raining down on England head coach Jones. He cut a much more relaxed figure on Saturday night, as if the pressure had been lifted off his shoulders. He claimed he had not felt the heat but must have felt the vibes following three losses in the Six Nations and the opening defeat in Perth.

All the talk of ‘new England’, with a rookie back-line, was overshadowed by the reversion to ‘old England’, as Jones’s pack went back to what English sides have always done well and mauled Australia to pieces.

Saracens hooker Jamie George paid tribute to former Leicester head coach and hooker, and now forwards’ boss under Jones, Richard Cockerill.

Cockerill was a no-nonsense front rower as a player and England were an image of some of the snarly old Tigers’ packs he played in as they derailed the Wallabies’ 10-match winning run at Suncorp Stadium.

England’s lineout wobbled and skipper Courtney Lawes admitted the two tries they had conceded were soft, but the result was the only thing that mattered — and will be the only thing that matters again this Saturday.

George said: “We know there has been some frustration among the fans, and rightly so. We have not had the results that we wanted over the last few games.

“We want to put smiles on faces for the people back home and, hopefully, we did that. In terms of the tour, it was massive. If you go 2-0 down, it is all doom and gloom. You start playing for pride — and no one wants to do that. Bring on Sydney!”

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