When Eddie Jones anointed Tom Curry as one of the Kamikaze Kids because he “hits everything that moves” he probably was not referring to tackling TVs. Curry, however, has been known to do exactly that – a consequence of sleepwalking in the team hotel – and his teammates have not let him forget it.
Sam Underhill, the other Kamikaze Kid, says he would hate to room with Curry because of it and it seems within the England squad he is not alone. They are, however, inseparable off the field – Joe Marler is in charge of fines in Japan and anyone who goes for lunch with Curry and Underhill is liable. Curry says they are “electric company” but, with tongue firmly in cheek, claims “people can’t handle it”. He is on his own though, when it comes to the Tokyo cat cafes – coffee shops where moggies will climb all over you to your heart’s content.
Increasingly, it seems, the Kamikaze Kids are England’s odd couple, but on the pitch they have hit it off to impressive effect in the three Tests they have started as Jones’s first-choice flankers, so much so that Mark Wilson, arguably England’s best player of the past 12 months, cannot get into the matchday squad.
Of Underhill, Curry says: “He is a bit calmer. He is very relaxed and chilled, I am a bit less relaxed and chilled. That’s the biggest [thing]. Apart from that, we are both pretty weird.”
For Curry, the new partnership has meant a change of number of his back, moving from his natural position of openside flanker to the No 6 jersey. The 21-year-old has added five kilograms in the past 12 months, enough to convince Jones that he is suited to blindside.
The England head coach is reluctant to say exactly when it occurred to him that, rather than playing Curry or Underhill in his back row, fielding both may be the way forward. But he is clear as to why. “I feel the game has moved into another cycle of contestability. The referees want low penalty counts and when you have low penalty counts it means you have a high contest, which also means you have high kicking. We thought: how can we be best equipped in that area? Curry is big enough to play six. He’s got the sense to play six. We thought we’d give a go in the World Cup warm-up games. He’s adjusted really well to it.”
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Pool A: Ireland, Japan, Russia, Samoa, Scotland
Pool B: Canada, Italy, Namibia, New Zealand, South Africa
Pool C: Argentina, England, France, Tonga, USA
Pool D: Australia, Fiji, Georgia, Uruguay, Wales
Curry is clearly a quick learner but he has had significant help from one of the best to ever wear England’s No 6 jersey. Richard Hill is England’s team manager and he has been mentoring Curry since he was playing at under-17 level. Jones also credits Hill for bringing Underhill to his attention – it would appear that he is still doing the unseen work even in retirement.
“It is good to get time [at No 6] to develop,” added Curry. “There are different positional traits that you need. It is about trying to adapt your game. The six role is different from the seven role. I have had a few conversations with Richard Hill and Mark Wilson. I spoke to him about how he found it and what he thought about it. Especially the way [David] Pocock adapted his role. But at the end of the day I don’t think there is anything massively different. I want to stay true to myself and how I want to play and from that adapt to what the team needs after that.”