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'It's important to remember there isn't any horrible intent': England's Tom Curry on rugby's current card frenzy

By Chris Jones
(Photo by Steve Bardens/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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England and Sale flanker Tom Curry is adamant that players are not setting out to make horrible tackles despite a blizzard of cards as referees continue to crack down on any contact with the head. Sale have collected 15 yellow cards in this season’s Gallagher Premiership and their problem reached a record level against Wasps last weekend when they won despite having four players yellow carded. 


Curry rated the Sale win as exceptional given the four cards, but he fears a repeat against Scarlets on Sunday in the Heineken Champions Cup round of 16 would undermine their trophy-winning potential.

The England flanker, who can expect to be chosen for the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa in July, told RugbyPass: “At the end of the day the responsibility is on the tackler and it is important to remember there isn’t any horrible intent. Rules are changing and all you are asking for is consistency.

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“The big thing is that nothing is malicious and players are not thinking, ‘I’m going to take this guy’s head off’. Most tackles are done with positive intent and as players, we can help ourselves by being in control and you get that by being in the best possible position to make the tackle. 

“Sometimes when you are set it doesn’t come off as you are facing a professional rugby player who is side-stepping, ducking and diving and half the time you don’t know what the ball carrier is going to do.



“We have had some honest conversations as a team and we still won with four yellow cards. That was exceptional and a true testament to Alex (Sanderson, director of rugby) and the rest of the coaching staff and the players who were out there and stuck to the game plan. 

The cards are not coming from ill-discipline, it is more from a tactical side and sticking with the system. I’m not saying it is an easy fix but we are being very honest with ourselves and want to put it right.”

Sale last won the Premiership title in 2006, the year of their only other quarter-final in Europe’s top competition. Armed with a squad boasting four players who have World Cup final experience they should be equipped to handle the threat posed by a Scarlets team bolstered by the return of their Six Nations-winning Welsh internationals.

Curry was just seven years old when Sale became English champions but they now possess a squad to rival that title-winning outfit – as long as they keep 15 players on the pitch. Scrum-half Faf de Klerk and lock Lood de Jager were World Cup winners in 2019, with Curry and the injured Manu Tuilagi in the beaten England team in Japan. While this gives the quartet experience of the biggest cup game in the sport, it will not be a deciding factor against a dangerous Scarlets team. 


“We have the individuals but in rugby, you need the whole squad buying in and we understand we have elements we are brilliant at and others that need to be fixed,” explained 22-year-old Curry who has won 33 England caps.

“As a club, we have been seen as an underdog and having the ability to change that mindset is huge and we want to enhance that. We have four guys who played in a World Cup final and just because you have these individuals we are not assuming that everyone is going to be all right. 

“You cannot assume that with those players it will happen. Obviously, it helps to have that invaluable experience but it is a whole squad effort not just guys who played a game two years ago.”

Curry’s commitment to the England cause normally means he returns to Sale with an illness but this time he is raring to get stuck into the club’s bid for European and Premiership success.


He even rated life in the national squad’s bubble at their Teddington hotel during the Six Nations as fun. Other England players found the time away from home difficult to deal with but Curry relished the opportunity to hone his rugby skills on a daily basis.

“I have looked after myself better (while with England) and I’m really excited to come back for this knockout match. The key will be how quickly we gel and being prepared for whatever the Scarlets bring to the game. Being back from the England bubble it is has been nice to catch up with family.

“When you are in it then it is about one game after another, focussing on the next session and for me, the time flies by. It is not ideal circumstances in terms of the social aspect but we tried pretty well to manoeuvre around that within the rules. Everyone reacts differently but for me it was fun.”


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