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The England 'rabbit hole' Sale opted not to go into with Tom Curry

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Alex Sanderson has explained why he took the decision not to talk too much with Tom Curry about the back rower’s latest Guinness Six Nations with England, a campaign in which the 23-year-old became the youngest player to captain the national team since Will Carling was appointed in 1988.

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With Owen Farrell and Courtney Lawes unavailable through respective ankle and concussion injuries, Curry was chosen by Eddie Jones to lead the England team in the opening round matches away to Scotland and Italy, games that saw them dramatically lose at Murrayfield before winning comfortably enough to Stadio Olimpico. 

Lawes took back the captaincy when he pitched up fit for the round three game versus Wales, leaving Curry with the responsibility of just concentrating on playing but his campaign was to disappointingly end with a hamstring injury early in the round four loss to Ireland.

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The prognosis was that the issue was a six-week injury and that has proven to be correct as seven weeks after he limped off at Twickenham, Curry will be on the Sale bench on Friday night when they host Newcastle in the Gallagher Premiership following last week’s bye-week in the competition.

It’s the start of a hectic few weekends for the Manchester club as a win over the Falcons will keep alive their outside hope of making the playoffs for the second successive season while also teeing them up nicely for their May 8 Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final away to Racing in Paris. 

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Given the length of the layoff that Curry has had from the game, you imagine that Sale boss Sanderson would have had ample time to sit down with the first-time England skipper and chew the fat over a Six Nations campaign that ended with Jones’ side losing three of its five matches. However, the club director of rugby opted to adopt a different tactic and mostly steer clear of national team chat.

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“I haven’t gone in too deep with it because I didn’t want to open up not a can of worms but you know, how the tournament went and I think he played well,” explained Sanderson when asked had he reviewed the England captaincy with Curry since his mid-March return to Sale. 

“You want him to come back to your culture because there is always that teething period and be onboard, be affiliated, be immersed in what you are doing as quickly as possible. That is the aim really for me. 

“Your club culture, by the length of the season, the nature of being your mates forever, is probably a safer, sometimes a more enjoyable, definitely a less pressured environment, so tactically I didn’t really want to go down that rabbit hole. I just wanted him to come back, to relax, to enjoy, to get excited about what he is going to do here.” 

At the start of the Six Nations, in the week that Curry was named as a first-time England skipper for the match away to Scotland, Sanderson had commented: “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. 

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“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.”

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