England openside Tom Curry believes he can be ‘five per cent’ more dominant as his rivalry with Bath’s Sam Underhill intensifies ahead of the World Cup.
However, he also sees no reason why the tough-tackling pair cannot form an effective back row partnership if head coach Eddie Jones so desires it.
Jones is an admirer of both players and would have been encouraged by the intensity and endeavour shown during their recent head-to-head clash when Sale met Bath – the highlight of an otherwise dismal Premiership match.
Curry, 20, was one of England’s standout performers during the Six Nations but with Underhill now fit after missing the tournament with an ankle injury, the battle for the No.7 jersey has been joined.
Curry said: “It was the first time I’d played against Sam and whenever you face someone of his quality it’s always a challenge you want to rise to. It was a good, physical battle so I really enjoyed it.
“Competition is what drives everyone and it inspires me. There’s huge competition in England’s back row and Sam and I are just two of many players Eddie has to choose from. But if it came down to it, I don’t see why we couldn’t play in the same team. It’s a great position for Eddie to be in.”
After excelling in the last 12 months against the best back rows South Africa, Ireland and Wales had to offer, Curry is ready to take his game to new heights.
Reflecting on his Six Nations campaign, Curry said: “Having confidence from being playing week-to-week at that level is a huge thing for me, not just in proving that physically I can do it but that I have the skills to compete as well.
“I’ve always been a physical player but as you get older there’s a natural progression and in terms of being able to carry the ball, tackle more effectively and decision making around the breakdown, I’ve improved those things as well.
“I was happy to be able to compete in that environment and surprised myself a bit. But there’s always loads to learn and the message from Eddie at the end was simple: keep getting better and play well for your club.
“Every Test is extremely physical and after the Ireland game especially I was feeling it for a few days, but you learn so much and from a personal perspective, I feel I can be more dominant – at least five per cent.”
Dominance was the name of James Haskell’s game and Curry reveals how the retiring enforcer helped inspire his own drive to international stardom.
Haskell would have been in the No.7 frame had toe trouble not intervened and Curry is appreciative of his influence.
He explained: “I followed James’ career closely growing up. When my brother Ben and I were at the stage five or six years ago when the analytical side of our game increased, he was someone I looked up to.
“James was a warrior and I’ve always based my game around that same sort of physicality. He’s been a great servant to English rugby and it’s a huge shame he’s had to pack it in early, he’s been absolutely inspirational to guys like myself.”
Meanwhile, Curry is excited by the signings Sale have made ahead of next season. With some forward beef arriving in the form of Jake Cooper-Woolley and South African quintet Akker van der Merwe, Coenie Oosthuizen, Lood de Jager and back row twins Dan and Jean-Luc du Preez, Curry said: “Our signings have been exceptional and it will deepen the squad and add to the competition across the board.
“We want to be competing at the top of the Premiership and in top level European competition for years to come. Being in the Champions Cup will be non-negotiable and it’s an exciting time.
NEALE HARVEY / Photo: Getty Images
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