England back row Tom Curry had revisited the last time his country played France at Twickenham in the Guinness Six Nations, the February 2019 afternoon when a cut to the head left him a bloody mess and drew comparisons with ex-English football captain Terry Butcher. 

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The long-ago English round ball skipper made headlines for spilling claret and then having a white headband turn red as his World Cup qualifier match went on versus Sweden. A similar experience was what unfolded for rugby flanker Curry who was playing in the first Six Nations home game in a career where he now has 31 Test caps and is an Eddie Jones selection regular.      

The scar has cleared up, thanks for asking,” quipped Curry when asked about the England-France clash from two years ago that the home side comfortably won 40-8. As vivid as his blood-stained memory is, it’s a game he is attaching no relevance to 25 months later, especially as the French beat England in last year’s championship in Paris and then came within an extra-time whisker of repeating that outcome in London in December’s Autumn Nations Cup final.   

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“You talk about that [2019] and it seems ages ago now. That kind of reflects where we are as a team now and also France, it’s two different teams playing and both obviously moved on pretty well. There is not much time for reflection and that is the exciting thing about this week. It’s all about this week and not what happened before because none of that matters because everyone has moved on. It’s exciting to get stuck into a new challenge.”

It’s an assignment fraught with danger from an England perspective. Two February defeats have derailed their Six Nations title defence and the third loss in four matches would spark an even louder hue and cry regarding Eddie Jones’ management of the team. Curry understands why people might be critical but he believes England are heading in the right direction despite going into round four nine points behind championship leaders France in fourth place.

“Leaving the table aside this game couldn’t have come at a better time,” he insisted. “The ability to be able to learn, adapt and fix it, that has been the excitement in the build-up this week… a couple of games doesn’t define you as a team or doesn’t define what you have done, doesn’t define where you are going. Sport is sport and it’s like life, it is never going to be all the way up, it’s never going to be perfect but where we are as a team is how much growth we have and how much excitement we can get from times like this. 

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“People from the outside aren’t going to understand how we are in camp. It’s a covid bubble, it’s pretty secure, no-one’s coming in, no-one’s coming out. It’s tough for people to understand how tight-knit this group is and how excited we are moving forward. I can accept that and understand why people are feeling like that, but it’s not true. What matters is we know that.”

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