Sam Underhill was in a packed Cardiff bar dressed in a Barbour jacket when England’s last tilt at the World Cup came to grief – against Wales!
It will take something fairly extraordinary to make him more uncomfortable this time round.
Tonga, however, have the potential to provide it in Sunday’s tournament opener given the warrior reputation they bring with them to Sapporo.
“They’re powerful and they’re built for rugby,” warned England attack coach Scott Wisemantel. “It’s called the Kingdom of Tonga for a reason, they’ve never been defeated in war.
“They’ve gone to other islands and smashed them up, but they’ve never been smashed up and they’re very proud of it.”
Underhill knows well what the pacific islanders are about and, being literally England’s first line of defence, is braced to take the brunt of it.
But the Bath flanker is itching to turn his World Cup dream into reality – and erase the memory of Wales four years ago.
“I was a fresher at Cardiff University and watched that game in the Taf bar at the uni,” he said, remembering how England threw away a 10-point lead late on.
It would prove a mortal blow as the following week they became the first host nation ever eliminated from the pool stages.
“How was that night for me? Well, I zipped up my Barbour jacket!” joked Underhill, who was living in a six-bed shared house and turning out for Bridgend Ravens, Ospreys’ feeder club.
“At the time the prospect of me playing for England was pretty distant. I’d say I was a million miles away. So I was there in the pub watching it very much as a fan.”
Life took an unexpected twist when Ospreys, short of players due to World Cup commitments, called him into their team. He was an instant hit, Eddie Jones noticed, and that was that.
Underhill would never put it that way as that is not him. When Jones hailed him as an ‘Ironman’ after a recent training exercise, he revised the description down to a “fairly budget Bear Grylls – a pound shop version”.
This weekend England will need him to be that and more. Fortunately this human tackling machine is up for the challenge.
“You’ve got to have belief in yourself as a team that if you play well you’re good enough to beat anyone,” he said. “We think that if we play well we can.
“It’s always a physical game. Everyone’s big and everyone’s fit. We’ll focus on what we can do. I certainly won’t be thinking about having my head taken off.”