Sale captain Jono Ross believes Tom Curry has become England’s outstanding openside flanker and can make the problem No.7 jersey his own in the build-up to this year’s World Cup in Japan.
Curry, who missed England’s Autumn tests after damaging his wrist, has helped Sale move up to fifth in the Gallagher Premiership table alongside twin brother Ben, who is also pressing for England recognition. Tom has won five caps and will be named in the England Six Nations squad by head coach Eddie Jones next week.
Ross, who plays alongside the Curry boys in the Sale back row, knows that Tom faces competition for the England starting role with Bath’s Sam Underhill the main rival, but his backing his teammate to emerge as Jones’s first choice in the Six Nations which kicks off with England’s daunting trip to face Grand Slam champions Ireland in Dublin on February 2. Exeter’s Sam Simmonds, currently injured, and former captain Chris Robshaw, about to return from injury for Harlequins, are also in the No7 mix.
Ross said: “Tom is a fantastic rugby player and probably the premier No.7 in the country at the moment. He is a real physical specimen and the biggest thing for Tom is to stay injury free. He is definitely a player who stands out every week and has the lead on Ben and if he stays fit it will be a massive year for him.
“Tom and Ben are the epitome of professional rugby players and work really hard, are abrasive and constantly want to learn and get better. Ben has been playing well and is growing as a player and they drive each other. They also push guys around them which is great and really sets the standards.”
Ross and the Curry twins have joined Springbok star Faf de Klerk and former captain Josh Beaumont in signing new long term deals at the club and Steve Diamond, the director of rugby, is planning to add three more South African internationals to the squad after the World Cup. It will give Sale, who are aiming to stay top of their European Challenge Cup pool by winning in Connacht on Saturday, a strong spine to ensure they build on this season’s improvements.
“The South African players who have joined have bought into what the squad is about and a lot of our guys are young English guys from the area” added Ross, who was born in Johannesburg but is qualified to play for England.
“South Africans are generally hard workers and quite abrasive rugby players and they key thing is that there is realisation that when you get here you have to work hard. That is expected of you if a player has 50 caps or none.
“The challenge for us is to keep our feet on the ground and continue to improve to become even better. Dorian West (forwards coach) has been fantastic since he has come in, is knowledgeable and has got the players to buy into what he wants. He gets the best out of the guys but we know we are not yet where we can be as a pack. We are not the finished article.”
Diamond has made it clear how important Ross is to the club’s planning stating: “Jono is one of the most professional and dedicated players I have ever had the privilege to coach. He is the catalyst of all good things going on at the club.”
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