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The Ardie Savea comparison that has Tom Curry at No8 for England

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

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Eddie Jones has explained the logic behind picking regular England flanker Tom Curry as the starting No8 for this Saturday’s Autumn Nations Series opener versus Tonga at Twickenham. The 23-year-old has only occupied the No8 shirt in four of his previous 32 England starts and he was last selected in that role for the March 2020 Guinness Six Nations game versus Wales. 

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Curry since went on to become the first-choice Lions openside for their 2021 three-Test tour in South Africa and the expectation with Billy Vunipola excluded from the current England squad was that Alex Dombrandt, the title-winning No8 from Harlequins, would be chosen to fill that role at the back of the scrum against the Tongans. 

However, Jones has decided differently, confining Dombrandt to the Twickenham bench and starting Curry at No8 in a back row where he will be flanked by Courtney Lawes and Sam Underhill. 

Asked why he had opted to select in this way, England boss Jones highlighted the various skills of Curry and compared his ability to All Blacks star Ardie Savea, another flanker who in recent times has switched into the No8 jersey at Test level.

“A lot of things,” said Jones on being quizzed why Curry has the ability to play No8 rather than start in his more familiar role at flanker. “Firstly, defensively he is probably one of the best defensive back-rowers in the world. 

“His one-on-one tackling, his ability to get his head over the ball and then since he first came into the squad in 2017 where he came in mainly as a defensive player, he has evolved his game to include some running skills, some passing skills and some linkage skills more importantly. 

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“So with the back row we have got initially with Courtney, a pretty strong ball runner, and Underhill, strong over the ball, it will give a chance to mix his game between running and linking and his defensive work and he has got the ability to do that. 

“You know, there are two players in the world that are similar at the moment in that aspect and it is him and Ardie Savea. They are both natural sevens but have got the capacity to be outstanding eights because they have the ability to carry the ball, to link and still do the defensive work.

“So we are very excited about seeing Tom play at 8. He played there before and this will be another opportunity for him to take another step forward.”   

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