Rugby Union: Underwood still marking time

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The Independent Online
The Heineken Cup seems to have bypassed England's most lethal wing. Rory Underwood has started in just one match - against the Borders - and appeared briefly as a replacement against the French side Pau during Leicester's unbeaten march through Europe.

Tomorrow, Underwood, who has scored 49 tries in 85 caps for England, must once more kick his heels on the replacements' bench for the quarter- final visit of Harlequins. The 33-year-old RAF pilot received a few consoling words yesterday from his captain, Dean Richards.

"I've said to him that I've been in the same situation with England so I can relate to how he feels," Richards said. "What you have to do is get your head down and carry on working hard."

Underwood's place has been taken by Leon Lloyd, 19, a player Richards describes as "an outstanding talent who is getting better with each game he plays". But the Tigers captain added: "In my eyes, Rory Underwood is the world's No 1 finisher. Obviously Rory is a little upset but at the same time he is raring to go."

Bob Dwyer, Leicester's director of coaching, said: "I believe, and so do the other selectors, that his form has not been there. On the other hand, his last game, I thought, showed a fair bit of improvement, and his application to training has been 100 per cent. In fact since he has been dropped he has really done extra work. One of Rory's difficulties is that he can't get to training as often as he or we'd like because of his job."

Will Carling reverts to his England position of centre for Harlequins tomorrow after Robbie Paul withdrew with a leg injury. Carling has been playing at outside-half for the past six weeks but teams up with Gary Connolly in midfield tomorrow, with Paul Challinor recalled at outside- half.

Mike Catt, the new No 10 for England, has been given the goal-kicking responsibilities for Bath in their Cup quarter-final clash tomorrow against Cardiff. Jon Callard, the club's top points-scorer this season, has been dropped as full-back in favour of the Wigan rugby league player Jason Robinson.

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