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'He's not a dick with it': Why Tom Curry is set to skipper England

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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So excited are Sale about the likely prospect that Tom Curry will skipper England in this Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations opener that they have brought forward their bus journey to London by two hours so that they will be in their team hotel in plenty of time to see their friend lead out his country at Murrayfield.  

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With regular skipper Owen Farrell ruled out of the entire tournament and his anticipated successor Courtney Lawes not quite right this week due to a concussion, the next man up to lead appears to be Curry, one of the three vice-captains Eddie Jones has in his squad along with Ellis Genge and Luke Cowan-Dickie.

Curry was sat alongside Jones at last week’s Six Nations launch in the absence of Farrell and Lawes, an appointment that indicated he was in pole position to be the England captain when they take on Scotland in the eagerly awaited Calcutta Cup match. 

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It won’t be until 11:30am on Thursday when Jones officially confirms that Curry is his preferred team leader for the round one Six Nations opener, but Sale reckon the England coach will have chosen well if the 23-year-old with 36 caps his country and three more with the 2021 Lions is announced as skipper for the game in Edinburgh.

“It’s huge, innit,” enthused Sale boss Alex Sanderson when asked what it would mean for the club to see one of its players appointed England captain for the 2022 championship opener. “It’s huge for Tom. Because he is our mate and part of the fabric of this club it is therefore important for everyone. He has grown into that role and he seems to be relishing it – if he does get the captaincy. 

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“We are going down two hours early on the bus (to London on Saturday ahead of Sunday’s game at Harlequins) so we can get into the hotel and watch him take the field. It would have been nice if we had a couple more (players involved) but we are very much looking forward to seeing how it goes if that happens. It’s huge, huge for the club. I guess it’s another feather to our cap in terms of our evolution.”

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It was January last year when Sanderson was appointed the Sale director of rugby. At that time he wouldn’t have predicted Curry would be the England captain 13 months later, but the club coach now describes the back-rower’s imminent promotion to the Test skipper role as somewhat of a natural progression.  

“You can’t predict. You really can’t know the minds of men, and then there is knowing the mind of Eddie Jones. But Tom came back off the Lions and there was all talk about his leadership ability and quality, so that was in the air then with his return to us but we just wanted him to focus on his game. 

“He is 23 and with the mastery of the game that he has got, one of those things is, ‘Well, how can he get better?’ Well, of course, he can get better in his reading of the game, attacking ability, you can maybe maximise his physiology to be faster and fitter but this is one area, the leadership, where you can make strides as you get more experienced so it was a natural progression for him. 

“There are loads of different ways of leading. Tom is someone whose standards off the field inspire others to be better as well. When people look at the diligence, how diligent he is with regards to his recovery – recovery is a big one these days because that gives you the ability to go again, how he talks in meetings. What I am saying is, he is very much a leader of the game and this is where he is growing.

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“He is affable, a nice fella, a really good lad. I like him a lot, I’d have a beer with him. But you get people who are like the social gel, people who just understand and are able to push other people’s buttons whereas Tom is a little bit different to that. Tom is and has been so driven over so many years, he lives the epitome of what it is to be a very high performing, elite athlete and he is not a dick with it, he is more than open to share. 

“Like he sits down with Sam Dugdale, who came on at the weekend, and he will go through all his clips, all Sam’s clips because he has got a real passion for the game, he wants Sam to get better as well but he pushes people through his own standards to be better players. He is probably more suited to an international environment I’d say than he would be to a club environment where that level of intensity that he has can burn people out occasionally. 

“I have seen it happen but not Tom because the depths and levels of his energy are fathomless. So that is his biggest attribute. When he does come back in, just the intensity and the level of training raises. That is one man having an influence on 40 people around him.”

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