Rory Underwood is still England's record try-scorer, with 49 Test tries. Phenomenal finishing seemed to come easy to the powerful Tigers winger
Major teams: Leicester, Bedford
Test span: 1984-96
England caps: 85 (85 starts)
Lions caps: 6 (6 starts)
Test points: 215 (50T)
Born in Middlesborough in 1963 to a Chinese-Malaysian mother and English father, Underwood was educated at Barnard Castle. He spent most of his playing days at Leicester Tigers, scoring 134 tries in 236 appearances, before ending his career at Bedford, where he accrued 12 tries in 23 Premiership matches in the 1998-99 season – at the age of 35.
His pace is renowned but many overlook the strength he brought to bear in contact. When England first started to take conditioning seriously in the late Eighties, one of the tests involved throwing a 16lbs shot two-handed over your head. To everyone’s surprise, Underwood threw it further than anyone else.
“Pound for pound, he was the most powerful athlete we had,” says Don Rutherford, the RFU’s former technical director. It enabled him to brush off tacklers, yet former England team-mate Brian Moore believes Underwood could have been even more lethal if he had taken nutrition seriously. Moore says the winger had “the most astonishingly bad diet you could imaginer such an outstanding athlete… chips, Coke, pizzas, burgers, ice cream, sweets. He was like a kid and was the first to admit it.”
Even so, Underwood helped England win three Grand Slams and a Five Nations title in the Nineties, as well as play six Lions Tests. From 1992 he had the pleasure of playing on the opposite wing to his younger brother Tony with England.
Away from rugby, he was an RAF pilot for 18 years. Awarded an MBE in 1995, he’s now a director at the Tigers, runs his own management consultancy and does motivational speaking.