England flanker Sam Underhill is under no illusions just how much Saturday’s showdown with Wales at Twickenham will mean to both sets of fans.
Underhill, who was named man of the match in his side’s Round 2 victory over Scotland at BT Murrayfield, spent two years playing his club rugby at Ospreys, before making the move to current club Bath in 2017.
The 23-year-old has, therefore, experienced the emotions from either side in previous years, and knows just how much a victory will mean in the Round 4 clash, but won’t let it affect him on the field.
“There’s definitely a special sense of occasion,” Underhill said. I’ll never be able to know what it really means for them because I’m English but you definitely sense there’s an extra edge and added emotion.
“There’s obviously more to England versus Wales than just rugby. Obviously none of us work at Westminster but it’s important to recognise what the game means to both parties.
“From living over there I’ve seen how much it means to them as a nation. As a player it’s always one to look forward to; it’s the game you want to play in.
“In the era of professional sport you can’t let things like that distract you too much but for the fans there’s definitely something else.”
England will be looking for their third successive victory in this year’s Championship in London, after bouncing back from opening day defeat to France in Paris.
Wales, meanwhile, are looking to avoid three defeats in a Guinness Six Nations campaign for the first time since 2007, after going down to Ireland and France in their last two outings.
The clash will also see Underhill come face to face with former teammate Justin Tipuric, who took the England man under his wing when he moved to south Wales.
Friendships will be put to one side this weekend though, as Eddie Jones’ side look to continue their momentum off the back of a home win over Ireland last time out.
“I learned a lot from him. He’s a phenomenal player and definitely the most skilful back-row I’ve played with or against.
“He’s very gifted and those are the guys you want to play against. You want to play against the best, as a team and an individual.”
“Against Ireland we showed with our performance that we are capable of more. We can still get better as a group in terms of performance. We never think we’re there.
“The only thing we can do is focus on the next game and put ourselves in as good a position as possible in the tournament. We can’t predict or influence what is going to happen with anyone other than ourselves.”