It was two summers ago when a teenage Tom Curry was told by the England captain he had to grow up fast — by changing his boxer shorts.
A surprise pick on the Argentina tour of 2017, the flanker shared a room with Dylan Hartley. The man 13 years Curry’s senior offered England’s hottest new prospect some sage advice.
‘Dylan got me to change my underwear!’ laughs Curry. ‘He was saying I was wearing little-boy underwear, and had to get big-boy pants. I had some loose boxers, and he told me to get some tight ones!’
Tom Curry is set to become the youngest England forward to be selected for a World Cup
Now, with 12 weeks until England’s opening World Cup match against Tonga in Sapporo, the change seems to have worked.
If fit, Curry is nailed on for a seat on the plane to Japan as part of Eddie Jones’ squad. Not only looking, but crucially, playing the part so brilliantly, he is set to become the youngest England forward to be selected for a World Cup.
Curry turned 21 two weeks ago, returning from a holiday in St Tropez to celebrate that birthday with twin brother Ben, the 25th wedding anniversary of parents David and Susanne and his Dad’s 50th at a big bash in Sandbach, Cheshire.
Curry was five years old when Jonny Wilkinson kicked the World Cup-winning drop-goal 16 years ago. In fact, November 22, 2003 serves as one of his earliest memories — the date holding double significance.
The 21-year-old is nailed on for a seat on the plane to Japan as part of Eddie Jones’ squad
‘I remember my dad jumping up and smashing a light,’ Curry says. ‘November 22 is an important date, as it’s my sister Charlotte’s birthday. It’s easy to remember — the day England won the World Cup.’
Curry watched the next edition — when England lost the final to South Africa in Paris — four years later ‘more keenly’. And as England bombed out of the last one at the group stage?
‘In 2015 I would have just started my A-levels,’ says Curry.
So a whirlwind four years then for Sale Sharks’ No 7? That is not how Curry sees it.
‘A whirlwind doesn’t sound like you have got control over it,’ he says. ‘It has gone quickly, but it has felt controlled. I’ve been through the system gradually. Everything has a plan, I just follow the plan.’
In Argentina 2017, Curry become the youngest English debutant since Jonny Wilkinson
Curry is the latest of England’s ‘pathway’ generation — players whose ascent to the top has been mapped out since their early teens.
He and Ben were fine young players at Bishop Heber High School in Cheshire and their local club Crewe & Nantwich.
By Under 16s both played for Cheshire, the North and helped Bishop Heber become the first state school to win the All-England Sevens for 27 years. That year Tom won the Trevor Watton Cup, as the best Under 16 player in the country.
Moving to Oundle School, where their uncle and former England player John Olver was the coach, the twins were signed up to the Sale academy.
At 18 Tom made his debut in the European Cup against the Scarlets and was then picked by Eddie Jones to tour Argentina with England.
Curry certainly looks the part and he will be the poster boy for England’s World Cup bid
‘There were rumours, as it was at the same time as the Lions, that it would be a younger squad but obviously it was extremely unexpected,’ says Curry.
For the pre-tour Barbarians fixture his twin Ben was picked for the bench. But then came the sliding doors moment.
‘I had pulled my calf so wasn’t available for the first week of training,’ Curry says. ‘Ben then pulled his back so wasn’t available for the second week, and I was. It changed from there.’
Tom replaced Sam Underhill in the first half and won man of the match. The medal and shirt from that game is in a frame at home.
Chris Robshaw was injured for the first Test in Argentina so Curry started at No 7 to become the youngest English debutant since Jonny Wilkinson in 1998. ‘It was another level,’ he says. But so was the 18-year-old. He starred in that match as England won 38-34.
Curry was named Land Rover Discovery of the Season for his incredible Premiership form
Injury meant he had to wait a year for his next cap, in South Africa last summer, but Curry belied his years to mix it with the Springboks.
‘All three Tests were pretty vicious, so you had to prepare yourself physically and mentally,’ says Curry. Enjoyable though? ‘Oh yeah.’
As was Curry’s first Six Nations this year, in which he scored his two tries and was likened to Terry Butcher — who he had to Google afterwards — for his bloodied face in the win over France. Now 10 caps into a career that seemingly has untold potential, Curry is quickly collecting honours — he was named Land Rover Discovery of the Season for his incredible Premiership form — and shirts for his collection.
He lists the players he has swapped with: ‘Josh van der Flier, Justin Tipuric, Hamish Watson. I used to have them in a wardrobe but now I have a rugby shrine.’
Soon Curry will be the poster boy for England’s World Cup bid, the shirt everyone wants, for he is certainly wearing big-boy pants now.
Tom Curry is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover is a proud Worldwide Partner of the Rugby World Cup 2019. @LandRoverRugby