England suffer Underhill Six Nations blow

By Sports Desk January 26, 2021

Sam Underhill is the latest player to withdraw from England's Six Nations squad due to a hip injury.

Jack Willis has been called up as a replacement for back-row Underhill, who is another big loss for the defending champions.

Underhill played a big part in England's Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup triumphs last year but sustained an injury blow before he was due to link up with the squad at St. George's Park on Wednesday.

Willis made his Test debut against Georgia last November and will be hoping to make his Six Nations bow in the coming weeks.

Underhill's withdrawal comes a day after Joe Launchbury and Joe Marler were ruled out due to a fibula stress fracture and personal reasons respectively.

England head coach Eddie Jones' preparations had already been disrupted last week when he was forced to go into self-isolation after his assistant Matt Proudfoot tested positive for coronavirus.

The Red Rose start the defence of their title against Scotland at Twickenham a week on Saturday.

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    Matthew Mott's side are on the brink of an early elimination this month, with their 20-over title defence seemingly crumbling without escaping the group stage.

    England struggled before rain washed out their opener with Scotland, who are the favourites to progress after Australia overcame Buttler's side on Saturday.

    The defending champions must beat Oman and Namibia, while needing Australia to overcome Scotland by a less-than-narrow margin to have any hopes of going through on net run-rate.

    That has brought questions over Buttler's tenure as England captain, though Root placed his backing in the 33-year-old, a former international team-mate and good friend of his.

    "Jos is one of my good friends," the England Test star said. "I think he's a brilliant captain, so I don't think there's any question.

    "I think they'll be absolutely fine, they've got a wonderful squad of players. They know exactly what they need to do.

    "When it's all laid out and they've got their backs to the wall, which they have in this situation now, is when they play their best cricket.

    "It could really bring the best out of them, so I've got no worries whatsoever.

    "If they go out and do what they all know that they're capable of doing, we'll be finding ourselves in the Super 8s and the back-end of the tournament where it really matters to play our best stuff."

    England face Oman on Thursday before meeting Namibia on Saturday, when Scotland go against Australia later in the day, boasting the advantage of knowing what result is required to progress.

    That is on the minds of Australian players, too, with bowler Josh Hazlewood weighing up the options of helping send England out of the competition.

    England coach Mott hopes the Australia quick's comments were in jest, though matters could be out of his side's hands come the weekend in the United States and West Indies.

  • Southgate succession plan in place after Euro 2024 despite no approaches for England boss Southgate succession plan in place after Euro 2024 despite no approaches for England boss

    England have started to plan for life after Gareth Southgate but Football Association executive Mark Bullingham insists no approach has been made for the manager, nor has his future been decided.

    The Three Lions boss raised questions over his future after German media outlet BILD published an interview this week from Southgate, who suggested Euro 2024 this month is his last chance with England.

    Manchester United were reportedly interested in the 53-year-old as well before reaffirming their commitment to under-fire manager Erik ten Hag.

    As the European Championship awaits in Germany, Bullingham sought to ease any fears over the future of Southgate, though reiterated the FA has already thought through a succession plan.

    "Gareth has been really, really clear that he wants to talk about that after the tournament," Bullingham said.

    "And I don't want to provide any distraction for him and the team, and I want to respect the fact that he wants to talk about the future after the tournament.

     "I've seen some things about, 'Have we got a plan, haven't we?' Any organisation has a succession plan in place for their top employees, and we are no different to that.

    "A succession plan normally includes everything from what you do for the short-term cover, through to a process you follow, through to [drawing up] a candidate pool. We have that for all our top employees."

    Bullingham also assured that Southgate's future will not be dictated by success at Euro 2024, with the manager's contract set to expire in December.

    "[The team] could go further but be playing poorly or have a really unlucky result where you get a couple of red cards and hit the woodwork three times," the FA chief added.

    "I think setting an arbitrary figure isn't the right way to go. I think we step back and look at everything after the tournament."

    In a staunch defence of Southgate, Bullingham lauded the job the former England international has done, guiding the Three Lions to the Euro 2020 final and World Cup semi-finals in 2018.

    "I would say I think the world of Gareth, I think he has done a phenomenal job," Bullingham said.

    "I think he has transformed the fortunes of our team, and that's not just off the pitch, and you can see the culture, but also the performances on the pitch.

    "Since 1966, he has won about half of our knockout games, which is a measure we really use, so we value him massively."

    Should Southgate leave, Bullingham remains open to bringing in another homegrown talent to manage England.

    "We have two senior coaches," he continued. "One of them is English, one of them [England women's boss Sarina Wiegman] is not.

    "Any federation in the world would always want to have a pool of top homegrown talent playing and managing at any time."

  • Wharton: If you're good enough, you're old enough for England at Euro 2024 Wharton: If you're good enough, you're old enough for England at Euro 2024

    Adam Wharton does not expect age to be a barrier to his England hopes at Euro 2024 as the midfielder revelled in a "surreal feeling" ahead of the major tournament.

    Crystal Palace's Wharton was playing Championship football with Blackburn Rovers until his January move to the Premier League.

    The next step on his seismic rise comes this month after making Gareth Southgate's final squad for the upcoming European Championship.

    That reward followed after a remarkable second half to the season for Wharton, who is already attracting interest from Europe's elite clubs following his impressive showings for Oliver Glasner's Palace.

    Wharton, aged just 20 for this UEFA tournament in Germany, wants to leave his mark and believes chances are there to be taken, despite his relative inexperience compared to his team-mates.

    "There are still players that have been in the team for a long time and some top young players in the team... I think it's good to have that little mix," Wharton said on Wednesday.

    "If you're good enough, you're old enough.

    "It's a surreal feeling. Honestly, I wasn't expecting it. Just a dream come true. Every kid who grows up playing football wants to play in the Premier League, and play for their country.

    "I got to play for the team I supported to begin with, really enjoyed that and then it has continued since. Moving to the Premier League, now here, so it's all been very fast but I wouldn't want it any other way.

    "I have really enjoyed the last six months and I just want to keep playing, getting better."

    Wharton will battle with Declan Rice, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Gallagher and Kobbie Mainoo for a role in Southgate's midfield, while Jude Bellingham remains an option if moved deeper.

    That does not concern the 20-year-old, however, as Wharton realises his dreams on the international scene.

    "I am just absolutely delighted," he added. "I get to do what I love on the top stage, you can't beat it."

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