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England explain picking Tom Curry despite his online abuse ordeal

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

England boss Steve Borthwick has explained why he has picked Tom Curry to start Friday night’s bronze medal final versus Argentina despite the online abuse that he has been subjected to in recent days.

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The head coach has made eight changes to his starting XV to take on the Pumas in Paris, but he decided to keep his back-rower involved even though he will wear the No6 shirt on this occasion to accommodate the naming of Sam Underhill at openside.

Curry has shipped a load of flak since he reported being on the receiving end of alleged discriminatory language during last Saturday night’s Rugby World Cup semi-final versus South Africa.

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The forward approached referee Ben O’Keeffe midway through the opening half and asked the official. “Sir, if their hooker calls me a white c***, what do I do?” O’Keeffe replied: “Nothing, please. I’ll be on it.”

The England player stayed silent in the post-game mixed zone when asked what had happened, but it emerged on Monday that World Rugby were formally reviewing the allegation in relation to the use of discriminatory language by South African hooker Bongi Mbonambi, an investigation that was still ongoing on Wednesday.

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Rugby World Cup
Argentina
23 - 26
Full-time
England
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In the meantime, Curry’s club Sale released a statement backing their captain and outlining they were “absolutely appalled by the nature and level of disgusting abuse” that the player and his family have been subjected to.

It soon emerged that the controversy won’t affect Curry’s participation in the third-place playoff at Stade de France, Borthwick explaining: “His preparation this week has been the ultimate professional, like he is every single day, every week.

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“This is not a Tom Curry incident. Someone has said something that he has reported and he is getting on and preparing.

“This is a World Rugby and SA Rugby matter to deal with, not an England Rugby or Tom Curry matter. We have said what we want to say on the matter. We have got a game on Friday which Tom and all the England squad are looking forward to.

“I chatted to Tom early in the week, it was around how he is physically because the way Tom plays he has more involvements than any other player on the pitch. Everyone saw when I took him off on Saturday night, he was cut, bloodied. It’s another six-day turnaround.

“He looked straight at me and point blank said, ‘I am desperate to play on Friday night’. This is a guy who wants to play. There is no doubt in my mind. The way he has prepared himself has been incredible. That is Tom Curry. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

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Skipper Owen Farell, who will lead out a team showing three backline changes and five more in the pack, added: “Personally speaking, Tom has been first-class like he always is.

“What isn’t understandable is the amount of abuse he has got, the effect that has had, not just on him. That is the bit I and we really don’t understand. It seems to be going more and more like this but it shouldn’t be.

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“He is one of the most honest and hardworking blokes I have ever played with. In terms of getting support, I hope he knows everyone close to him supports him and back him all the way. I’m sure he does. I hope the people who are close to him know he is being supported really well.

“We wanted people to know our support of Tom but it is not something that we have been talking about constantly. With Tom himself he wants to get involved in this contest on Friday, it is his 50th cap. It is an unbelievably proud week for him.

“It’s going to be the same for a couple of others as well. Ben Youngs’ last game as well. So we want to make sure this week is about doing them proud. We want to represent the shirt properly. We want to make sure we make the fans proud again.”

Farell himself has been subjected to online abuse in recent times, back in August following his red card versus Wales in a Summer Nations Series game and again following last Saturday’s one-point loss to South Africa. “We have just said our bit, there is not really too much to say. You are dealing with people, human beings.

“Just because you’re saying stuff on a computer screen or your phone doesn’t make it acceptable. It seems to be going more and more that way, but I don’t think it’s acceptable.”

Has Farrell got a solution? “I don’t think that is something for us to come up with. I think there will be people who know more about it than me. Again, everyone is different.”

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finn 6 hours ago
Why the world needs a reverse Lions tour

I think there’s a lot of reasons this wouldn’t work, but if we’re just proposing fun things how about a “World Series” held the june/july following a world cup. The teams competing each four years would be: the current world champions The Pacific Islands The British & Irish Lions The World XV Barbarians FC to ensure all teams are fairly evenly matched, the current world champions would name their squad first; then The Pacific Islands would name next, and would be able to select any pacific qualified players not selected by the world champions, including players already “captured” by non-pacific nations who would otherwise have been eligible for selection (eg. Bundee Aki); the Lions would select next; and then The World XV and Barbarians FC would be left to fight over anyone not selected. Some people will point out that 5 teams is too many for a mid-year round robin, particularly as it would be nice to have a final as well; and they would be right! But because we’re just having fun here we’re going to innovate an entirely new format for rugby, where the round robin is played in one stadium over the course of one day, with each game lasting just 40 minutes with no half time or change of ends. The round robin decides the seedings for the knockouts, which are contested by all 5 teams in one stadium over the course of one day, according to the following schedule: Knockout Round 1: seed 5 v seed 4 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Quarter Final: winner of Round 1 v seed 3 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Semi Final: winner of Quarter Final v seed 2 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Final: winner of Semi Final v seed 1 (played as a standard 80 minute rugby match) for the round robin, teams would name a 15 man starting lineup and a 16 man bench. Substitutions during games can only be made for injuries, but any number of substitutions can be made between games. The same rules apply for the finals, except that we return to having a regular 8 man bench, and would allow substitutions as normal during the 80 minute final.

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