Six Nations – Scotland v England: Why Tom Curry has been likened to Sam Burgess

AS Tom Curry prepares to lead England out for the first time today, Sale Sharks head coach Paul Deacon admits he recognised his captain credentials – ever since the forward’s teenage actions reminded him of a young Sam Burgess at Bradford Bulls.

At just 23, Curry will become the youngest England captain since Will Carling in the 1990s when the Red Rose take on Scotland in their Six Nations opener at Murrayfield.

It is another remarkable milestone for the talented back-row who has already earned 35 caps and represented the British Lions on three occasions.

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With Owen Farrell and Courtney Lawes both injured, many people expected Eddie Jones to plump for Maro Itoje as his captain for the Calcutta Cup clash but Deacon feels Curry is an inspired choice.

LEADING MAN: Tom Curry will lead England out into the cauldron that is Murrayfield later today. Picture: Craig Mercer/Getty Images

The former Bradford and Great Britain scrum-half, who has worked at Sale since 2015, has seen the forward’s impressive development first-hand.

“Tom and his twin Ben came through at the same time, around 2016, and they both made a massive impact,” Deacon told The Yorkshire Post.

“But Tom obviously got a shot with England before Ben and has gone on to do not a bad job.

“He’s probably one of the best players in the world at the minute so he is doing well.

CONFIDENT: Sale Sharks head coach, Paul Deacon Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images

“He will be a great captain. He’s done it for us on numerous occasions when Jono Ross has not been there and stepped up to it with no problem whatsoever.

“He does it in his own way. He’s got an old head on young shoulders and is a very mature bloke.

“He speaks really well. Is very calm, to the point and I think he’ll do a fine job for England. What he’s done already just in his playing feats is amazing but he has matured loads as well over the last couple of years from what I’ve seen at Sale.

“He’s grown into that leadership role and does it really well.

England head coach Eddie Jones during a training session at Peffermill Fields in Edinburgh yesterday. Picture: Steve Welsh/PA

“But one of the biggest compliments I can give Tom – and his brother – is that when he came through at Sale, they were the first people to really remind me of Sam Burgess first coming through at the Bulls all those years ago.”

Burgess, of course, strode into the first-team for Super League and World Club champions Bradford when aged just 17 in 2006.

The forward’s performances were so towering that – like Curry – he quickly made his international debut and took the world by storm.

Deacon, who was nine years Burgess’s senior, recollected: “Not many young players – very, very few that I came across – did what Sam did when he came through there.

England captain Tom Curry, pictured during a training session at Peffermill Fields in Edinburgh on Friday. Picture: Steve Welsh/PA

“He increased the intensity of training and he came in and really mixed it with the senior lads.

“The senior lads were left thinking ‘I’m going to have to step up to this kid’s level.’

“At Sale, I knew straight away that both Tom and Ben, but especially Tom, were going to do big things in the game as they changed the intensity and the culture of the training sessions as 18 year-olds, just as Sam did with Bradford.

“There was a big similarity.”

Yorkshireman Burgess won five caps for England’s union side himself in 2015 after briefly switching codes.

Jones, meanwhile, likened Curry to legendary All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, arguably the greatest comparison someone in his position could ever wish for.

SPECIAL TALENT: Sam Burgess, pictured playing for Bradford Bulls back in 2007.

“Captaincy is about the person who can lead a group of players on the field. And there is no better player in our squad than Tom Curry to do that,” said Jones.

“Tom leads by example and he reminds me of a young Richie McCaw, who was able to lead by example.

“As he progresses there will be other bits and pieces of his captaincy that grow.

“But at the start of his career it’s all about leading by example and getting the team on to the front foot. That goes in line with how we want to play the game. We want to get on the front foot and take Scotland on.

Jones turned to Curry after noting his leadership potential in the autumn.

“I saw then that he’s a player who players like to play with – not dissimilar to Owen,” added Jones.

“Players like to play with those sort of players, who lead by example.

“Tom’s got an excellent opportunity now. We’re hopeful Courtney will be back at some stage, but for this week Tom’s the most important player to take that big seat.”

What is clear is that Curry’s temperament, leadership and all-round game is not in question.

What is in doubt is whether he can actually help England secure victory in a fixture that has become increasingly fraught for Jones.

Before 2018, England had won eight straight meetings with Scotland, but they have won only one of the past four.

Last year’s landmark defeat at Twickenham, on this opening weekend, was Scotland’s first success there since 1983 and contributed to England’s woeful fifth-place finish.

Forced into so many changes, Jones knows his side will be up against it once more.

Deacon, who made more than 300 appearances for Bradford in their most successful era, admitted: “I do think it will be tough for England, especially going up to Murrayfield.

“Scotland did really well last year and I can’t see it being an open game.

“It will be a tight scoreline and it will be close. If I’m honest, they are two evenly matched teams. I’m looking forward to watching it.”