England must enter their series decider against Australia without both of their ‘Kamikaze Kids’ after Sam Underhill was ruled out of the third Test because of concussion.
Underhill was replaced during the second-half of the 25-17 victory at Suncorp Stadium having suffered a head injury while tackling wing Marika Koroibete and he has now been stood down for Saturday’s clash in Sydney.
It comes in the wake of Tom Curry returning home last week after being concussed in the first Test and England have only escaped a full-blown injury crisis at flanker by the news that Jack Willis has been cleared to train.
Willis withdrew from the bench just hours before the series was levelled in Brisbane due to a rib problem, but he is on course to provide cover in the pivotal Test while Lewis Ludlam is set to join Courtney Lawes and Billy Vunipola in the starting back row.
England have suffered a heavy toll from concussion during the series with Maro Itoje already confirmed as unavailable for the final instalment because of the blow he took when tackling Hunter Paisami in Brisbane.
Including the Wallabies’ Jordan Petaia and Allan Alaalatoa, a total of five players have now been ruled out indefinitely because of brain injuries sustained in the first two Tests.
“Maro Itoje and Sam Underhill have been withdrawn from the England squad after suffering concussions in last weekend’s win against Australia. No replacements will be called up,” a Rugby Football Union statement read
Underhill and Curry were dubbed the ‘Kamikaze Kids’ by Eddie Jones on the basis of their fearless play, but England’s head coach must now do without a duo who lit up the 2019 World Cup.
It was decided that Curry should return home in the “interest of player welfare and recovery” having been concussed for the third time in sixth months, most likely as a result of tackling Samu Kerevi in Perth.
Underhill, meanwhile, has a history of injuries of this nature and missed three months earlier this season after sustaining two head knocks in December.
“When it comes to concussions, player welfare is always now first and foremost,” said Underhill last Tuesday ahead of his return to the back row.
“There is no grey area – you are either okay or you are not and if you are not okay you are looked after. It’s always a frustrating injury because you can’t do an awful lot.
“One of the symptoms is tiredness so you don’t want to be falling asleep, it’s more of a symptom check.
“You have obviously got a return to play protocol so you check off bike, run, some training, and it can get fairly menial and tedious doing the same thing over and over again.
“It’s physically fairly basic and you can’t do an awful lot. That’s why it’s frustrating.”