Eddie Jones has never been one for conventional wisdom. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the England head coach has chosen to begin the home strait to next year's World Cup – starting with four autumn fixtures in November – by pitting his squad against the rough and tumble of an aquatic assault course at Thorpe Park.
England face Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa on consecutive weekends next month and the squad's preparations began in Richmond on Sunday, before they were whisked off to the South East's premier theme park on Monday morning for a team-building exercise. There were no rides, according to flanker Tom Curry, who was "still thawing off" on Monday lunchtime after the squad's watery escapade.
But who impressed Curry the most? None other than Jack Singleton, the Gloucester hooker – a late call-up to the camp alongside George McGuigan and Adam Radwan – who has not represented England since the 2019 World Cup.
"Jack Singleton was really good," Curry said, two days after inspiring high-flying Sale to victory over Exeter.
"To be fair, the referees were all over the place. They were letting people go left, right and centre. But Singleton was very good, very athletic.
"We got into groups of four and there were big inflatable things to get around. You had to keep hold of this inflatable ball which kept getting mysteriously kicked to the other side by the other team!
"We had that and went round as individuals and then the last bit was getting from the end of the assault course back to the dock as soon as possible.
"Nowellsy [Jack Nowell] managed to find a little boat to jump on and got the ball back quite quickly, so I’m glad I was on his team."
Detailing the squad's venture, Curry could barely wipe the smile from his face, which was refreshing and heartening given his recent travails with concussion.
The flanker departed England's first Test defeat against Australia in July at half-time, and would not re-emerge for the rest of the series, a head injury which followed a similar (albeit less serious) exit in England's Six Nations win over Wales. This season, he has featured twice for Sale and is fully confident that he is fit and ready to go.
"It shows the way rugby is going and the progression it’s making [that my welfare was put first]," Curry added, before backing the recent World Rugby amendment of any player with a history of concussion being forced into a mandatory 12-day stand-down period.
"If the research backs it then I’m all for it. At the end of the day my job is to play rugby. That’s what I focus on and if something comes out that helps players in the long term then it’s only a positive.
"Rugby is being put into a better spot with research and what’s going on. I’ve got full confidence in my long-term health. I’ll let the scientists take care of that and let’s crack on and play rugby.
"It is a contact sport, isn’t it. You work on your tackle technique, you try and get it right but ultimately it’s very different every time you do it.
"My mum says [that tackling is dangerous] a lot. For me, when you are in the element of the game it doesn’t seem it. It is what it is, it is rugby and you can’t change it and that is the sport we love."
England begin their campaign at France 2023 on September 9 against Los Pumas in Marseille. With the autumn Tests, a Six Nations campaign and four warm-up games – announced by the Rugby Football Union on Monday as Wales (twice), Fiji, and another opponent to be confirmed – to come, despite only featuring for 40 minutes of the summer tour, Curry is acutely aware of how important that series win against Australia was for England's development.
"In terms of England winning down in Australia, it’s a huge feat in itself let alone what’s happened before," Curry said.
"That was the big thing going into that tour. You have to park something like [finishing fifth and then third in the Six Nations].
"Obviously you have to take your learnings on why it didn’t quite go to plan, but then you have to push on with the exciting challenges you have ahead. I think that’s where we took real strides forward. I think it showed with the excitement we had in Australia.
"Whether it’s good or bad you take the learnings and move forward. I think that’s really important – especially in a game where you can win and lose. As long as you’re able to get better and take that into what’s coming up in the autumn I think that’s really important.
"Winning down in Australia was good, but you can’t get too ahead of yourself. It’s a different opposition and you have to look at it differently but we’ll take the learnings from what we did on tour."
As well as from the obstacle course, naturally.