Flank statement: How Curry and Underhill compare to rival loose forwards
The England pair are set to come face to face with New Zealand duo Ardie Savea and Sam Cane in the World Cup semi-finals.
Flankers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill have been marked out among England’s key players for Saturday’s World Cup semi-final against New Zealand.
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The pair, both playing in their first World Cup, have been dubbed the “kamikaze kids” by England coach Eddie Jones with their hard-tackling style helping to set the tone in defence.
Here, the PA news agency takes a statistical look at their impact and the task awaiting them in Yokohama.
The kamikaze kids
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 19, 2019
Curry and Underhill have excelled for England at the World Cup so far, with the former named man of the match in Saturday’s quarter-final win over Australia.
He produced eye-catching plays both without the ball – a turnover followed moments later by a crunching tackle on wing Reece Hodge – and with it, entering the line to send Jonny May in for the opening try.
That is just a microcosm of the blindside flanker’s work, though, with 46 tackles in his four games, 27 carries for 68 metres, 15 passes and an offload with just two handling errors.
Underhill has been similarly tenacious, matching Curry’s tackle count of 46 despite playing one game fewer – the pair have combined for a 90 per cent tackle success rate. The openside has also gained over 50 metres despite carrying only 12 times.
Here comes the crunch
Impressive as the England pair have been, they – along with number eight Billy Vunipola – are now set to go up against arguably the best back row in the tournament, with Kiwi captain Kieran Read at number eight and Ardie Savea and Sam Cane either side of him.
The two All Blacks flankers have a combined tackle success rate of 95 per cent, with openside Cane making 31 in three games and Savea 24 in four.
While those raw numbers are lower than for their England counterparts, that may be largely a product of New Zealand’s control of possession – also reflected in their combined 38 passes and 41 carries, with Savea racking up a hefty 151 metres and beating 11 defenders.
The good news is England have already faced a similar test in Australia’s David Pocock and Michael Hooper and come through with flying colours.
Having admittedly played a game more – Pocock five and Hooper four – the Wallaby pair have combined for 82 carries for 213 yards, 66 tackles at a 95 per cent success rate and 31 passes, but could not see their team past England.
At number eight, Read outshines Vunipola 36-26 in the tackle count and has a slightly higher success rate. Their carry numbers are similar, 38-36 in Vunipola’s favour, with their different styles reflected in Vunipola leading 94-59 in metres and Read by 27 passes to 14.