Tom Curry’s all-consuming desire to become England’s first-choice No6 at the Rugby World Cup allowed him to shrug off a high shot from Ireland’s Rob Kearney at Twickenham which provoked widespread social media anger.
While the match officials insist the angle they saw of the Kearney arm allowed them to rule it hit the Sale flanker’s shoulder rather than his neck, it remained a fearsome shot. The fact 21-year-old Curry just got back to work will not have surprised his Sale or England team mates and like twin brother Ben, also pressing for international recognition, it takes a lot to keep him down.
Now, Curry, who has 12 caps, will head to Treviso later this week with the England World Cup squad for more heat training and team bonding having proved that he could become a real force at blind side flanker rather than wearing the No7 jersey for his country. Together with fellow tackling machine Sam Underhill, of Bath, Curry confirmed what Australia have known for years – playing two talented and fiercely competitive No7’s can be highly effective.
The only area where Curry lacks test experience is in the line out jumping role and given that Billy Vunipola and Underhill do not get off the ground, it leaves head coach Eddie Jones needing a third target. That is Mark Wilson when the Sale flanker is fit and he had a cameo role in the record-breaking win over Ireland at Twickenham. What Curry’s performance proved is that against nations with weaker line outs – Tonga and USA in England’s World Cup pool – he can be successfully deployed in that No6 role.
Curry, as his Sale team mates know, is a restless soul, desperate to improve with every training session and he is already thinking about areas to concentrate on leading into the World Cup. He said : “Playing No6 was a little bit different, probably a little bit more off the ball than a seven would usually be but I enjoyed it. It involved different skillsets, talking about the high ball, lineout catching. I really enjoyed it and whenever you’re representing your country is unbelievable. “
Curry scored a try after a clever short pass from Underhill allowed the Sale forward to cut through the Irish defence. “Sam’s energy and defensive skills are a credit to play with, and we saw his attacking the few times we linked up so that was really nice. Billy is a main carrier for us but if we know that teams are going to target him then we’ve got to make sure people are backing him up over all of the positions in the back-row to be threats and keep other teams thinking.
“For me it’s about trying to be a better player. If that means I can get better at my lineout then brilliant, if it’s my high-ball catching then brilliant, and so on. If I get picked at six I’ll play six. It’s not really an element of ‘I need to do this to get selected’, I want to be the best player overall and if that means I’ve got to fit into the six shirt then I’ll just be looking forward to playing for my country.”
Treviso was the scene of the bust up that saw Mike Brown and Ben Te’o dumped from the squad and Eddie Jones insists that drinking sessions remain on the agenda as the squad gets even closer as a unit. Curry believes this kind of trip is important and added: “We can feel it building and us getting tighter and that’s going to happen. We’ve got all these social events in place and you can feel it going well, especially the off-field stuff coming together with the on-field stuff Treviso is great – I am absolutely buzzing!”
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