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'He doesn't do it in a nasty way': Sale on how Lions matured Curry

By Liam Heagney

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Tom Curry hit the ground running last weekend on his first return to action at Sale since touring with the Lions. A starter in all three Test games versus the Springboks, the 23-year-old played an important disruptive role at the breakdown to help ensure the Sharks defeated Harlequins in his first game for the club since last season’s semi-final defeat to Exeter. 

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Gallagher Premiership website statistics credited Curry for winning four turnovers in the 28-22 victory but his Sale boss Alex Sanderson reckoned his player was good for a few more than that in what was an eye-catching individual performance illustrative of the more intense back-rower that has returned to Sale following his trip to South Africa.

Asked by RugbyPass how different is the Curry now at Sale compared to the player who headed out the door in Manchester last June for the start of the Lions and Sanderson was full of insight regarding the changes that he has noticed in recent weeks. “He is back with his ex-girlfriend, so make of that what you will,” he suggested. 

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“He is a little bit more intense. He is definitely more mature in how he speaks. That is probably the lifecycle of any player, you end up leading by example at the start, just getting your feet in under the table, and as you grow and mature you become a little bit more eloquent in terms of how you are able to verbalise what you do.

“He has got a really good feel because he is a very intense player. He wants everything high energy, high tempo, so he has got a good feel for it but most of the time it is where it fits in with his own standards, which is a difficult thing to drive. 

“Take Monday: it was a lower-paced day, we were only going up to 70 per cent and he is like, ‘We are not where we need to be, this is not as intense as we need to be’ because we dropped three or four balls. He is driving those standards but he doesn’t do it in a nasty way, he doesn’t do it in a way that people are afraid of him. He says it in a way where people go, ‘Right, if that is what Tom is saying then it must be right and we will follow it’. He has become a better leader on the back of the Lions, a more self-assured, more mature player.”

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Sanderson added that a number of things particularly assisted Curry in being such a breakdown nuisance to Harlequins last week. “There were a few things – style of play, directives coming in and the shift in focus or the shift in playing styles of teams perhaps playing a little bit more expansively when it is on.

“He was good for seven or eight (turnovers), if you look back at the game there were loads that he should have got. Certainly, the way that Quins play, this expansive style of rugby where they are looking to offload the ball, where they are looking to get through the tackle, it opens you up for that jackal threat, that turnover threat because you land long and you land at the feet of an inside defender who is coming around to the ruck, so it is a perfect scenario for Tom. 

“There was that and also looking after the jackaller a little bit more. The directive about not targeting lower limbs means they have to come through the gate a little bit squarer so that potentially can buy you extra time. There is a shift in most teams – you can see that in the scorelines – to attack more in the right areas off of the right ball and what this kicking game, the 50:22s, give you to some extent is unstructured possession. So you attack more often off unstructured possession which means you are more dangerous but you are also more vulnerable if you get isolated. It opens up the jackal threat.”

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'He doesn't do it in a nasty way': Sale on how Lions matured Curry

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