Identical twins Ben and Tom Curry are like-for-like replacements in every sense of the word. But Ben, the older of the two by an hour-and-a-half, says neither of them have any problem playing interchanging back row roles within the Sale match-day squad.
In the first few weeks of the season commentators have had to do a double-take as one came on for the other, with Ben starting against Wasps and London Irish and Tom wearing seven against Newcastle.
While competing for the same jersey could be awkward, Ben says Sale handle the situation well and that light-hearted rivalry comes with the territory in the Curry household.
Ben said: “Sale have been really good with us, giving us as much information as they can about what sort of team they are looking to put out so that, when it comes to the team being announced, we know exactly what is happening.
“You are always competing against someone else in your position, in this case it just happens to be my brother.
“I think competitiveness is a family trait. We’re racing against each other to see who can get to training the quickest – all within the speed limit, of course – and I’m winning.”
While Tom took all the plaudits for his man-of-the-match display in Argentina, fellow England tourist Ben says his summer was far from wasted.
A back spasm picked up in the Barbarians game before departure cost the flanker the chance to be actively involved in the 2-0 series win over Los Pumas.
But the 19-year-old still travelled with the squad and gained an insight into the Test match environment.
“(Defence coach) Paul Gustard is very knowledgeable and one of the best coaches I have worked with. Also, it was great to be around the likes of Dylan Hartley and George Ford,” Ben said.
“It gave me an insight into what it takes to earn, in Dylan’s case, 80-odd caps. It kind of refocuses you and highlights the traits you need to get to that level. It was great to learn off everyone and I am grateful for the experience.
“When I started out last season I wouldn’t say going on the England tour to Argentina was up there in my thoughts, I was just hoping to get on the bench for Sale in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and play for the U20s.
“So, it was incredible to get on that tour. But the hard work starts again now because more players are putting their hands up.”
Another learning curve has been the new law around the tackle. With 14 turnovers from 12 appearances, no other back row player in the Premiership with a double-figure turnover count managed a better ratio in 2016-17.
But changes to the policing of the breakdown has forced Curry and other ace turnover exponents into a rethink.
“It’s fair enough. People go to rugby games to watch entertaining rugby and tries being scored, they don’t want to see two sides just slowing the game down,” he said.
“All the best players are adaptable so that’s what I’ve got to do. You just have to find the way that best works for you and the team.
“The days of making a tackle, popping back up on your feet on the wrong side and turning over the ball are gone.
“As the initial tackler, you have to try and chop the man to ground as quickly as possible and then roll away to enable the second man to come in and make the turnover.”
Described by Sale boss Steve Diamond as being like ‘25-year-old men in 19-year-old bodies’, the Curry twins know how to pack a punch in the physicality stakes.
Both started the season shaven-headed, adding another element of aggression to their on-field demeanour, although Ben’s scalping was involuntary.
“It wasn’t out of choice,” he insisted. “We played a game on our way to Castres in pre-season where you couldn’t tell a lie but I did.
“The loser had his head shaved as a forfeit. Tom had his done in Argentina so for a while we looked similar again.”
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