Tom Curry’s career figures of 23 England caps at the age of 21 speak of an impressive and focused young man, and the view is only reinforced when you hear his reaction to the coronavirus outbreak that has forced a shutdown of rugby union unprecedented in peacetime.
“On a personal level, the players’ level, you have just got to take the rest and embrace it, and find the positives in it,” Curry tells i. “Do something good with it: be professional and get better every day. It is hard when you don’t know when you might be playing again.
“But people have families and stuff and are wondering whether it affects them. That is the wider picture and you have to be aware of it.”
Curry is taking a walk on a golf course in Altrincham when we speak by phone. It is shortly before his club Sale Sharks’ announcement that “all of its staff and players have consented to take a pay cut whilst play is suspended”.
Curry says before this confirmation: “That’s for higher powers to take control over and I trust them. If it puts the club and rugby in the best possible position for after this, I am all for it.”
Curry played in the World Cup final last November, and he was working through a new role as a flanker-turned-No 8 in the Six Nations when the competition was interrupted and England’s final match in Italy was postponed. It might be completed in October. In normal times, he would probably have been rested for England’s summer tour to Japan in July, which is also now in doubt. His club Sale, meanwhile, were going brilliantly in the Premiership, in second place five points behind the leaders Exeter. There are nine rounds plus the play-off semi-finals and final to go, and no one knows if or when they will be played.
“We don’t know when the season will resume,” says Curry. “We could be playing at the end of June, or in July. You want to stay sharp – so that if they call it back on, we’re ready to go. At the minute, it’s ticking over.”
Only six players from top-tier countries had more caps than Curry by the age of 21: George North, James O’Connor, Frans Steyn, Jonny Wilkinson, Ben Tune and Rieko Ioane. With players sent home with individual training programmes, how does he replace that weekly drive towards the next match, the next challenge?
“There is definitely a focus and the aim is to get better,” Curry says. “It is a physical and mental aspect, rather than a rugby aspect.
“During a normal playing week, everything is quite power- and speed-based because if you tried to do isometrics or build muscle during the week, you’d be tired when it came to the game. It is a good time to adjust the programme and do some different stuff. Maintaining and keeping my weight [he is around 108kg during the season] will be a big part of this next period.
“It alternates between uppers and lowers, having a rest day in between. Usually two sessions a day. There will be a running session, or off-feet, usually on a watt bike from 30 minutes of doing chilled, a fat-burn, to 15 minutes of high-intensity. And lower body is free weights. The onus is obviously more on you to keep it going.
“But you can’t be doing the same thing over and over in the gym, otherwise you’ll go nuts.”
Curry no longer house-shares with his identical twin and fellow Sale player Ben, and he is dividing time between his own place and his parents’ house, which has a weights rack and a bike. Otherwise he has been using the gym equipment at Sale’s Carrington training ground, observing hygiene guidelines.
Curry is mindful of how his grandfather is keeping, and he is aware of the implications of his father David being a headmaster at Bishop Heber High School in Malpas in Cheshire, which may remain open for children of key workers. Curry says: “My dad is pretty cautious that, if we go back home, we are doing all the government advice or we don’t come back at all – so that he is able to work.
“You still have the ability to socialise on Facetime or WhatsApp groups. For me, it’s more about staying in touch with family that you wouldn’t normally see so much, including the older ones.
“It is a change of attitude and focus. It feels different. You have to keep yourself sane, somehow.”
Youngest players to reach 20 Test caps in Tier-One rugby:
- George North (Wales/Lions)
- James O’Connor (Australia)
- Jonny Wilkinson (England)
- Frans Steyn (South Africa)
- Marcos Kremer (Argentina)
- Joe Rokocoko (New Zealand)
- Frederic Michalak (France)
- Ben Tune (Australia)
- Sergio Parisse (Italy)
- Tomasso Benvenuti (Italy)
- Rieko Ioane (New Zealand)
- Jan Serfontein (South Africa)
- Tom Curry (England)
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