Tuesday 22 January 2019

Curtis determined to follow family's Ireland footsteps

David Curtis. Photo: Sportsfile
David Curtis. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Angus Curtis was born in Zimbabwe and later went to school in South Africa, but his dream was always to follow in his father David's footsteps and play for Ireland.

David Curtis was Irish-qualified through his own father Brian, who also represented his country as a flanker during the second World War.

Curtis, like his son Angus, was an abrasive centre who won 13 caps, and featured at the 1991 World Cup.

Now, having made the move to Ulster, Angus has become a key player for the Ireland U-20s in their Six Nations campaign.

The 19-year-old still has a way to go before he reaches the levels that his father and grandfather did, and back home, he is regularly reminded of that.

"He does," Curtis smiled when asked if his dad shows him footage of his playing days. "But it's all on video tape so we can't watch it! Whenever it comes up on the TV, he flippin' calls all three (sons) of us in and says, 'Watch how it's done!'

"From a young age, but he hasn't forced me into it, but he's kind of slowly guided me into it.

"He's been out of the game for a long time but he's always given me lots of support and my little brother, older brother, all of us have played rugby so it's always been in the family."

The grainy footage of days gone by acts as a source of inspiration for where Curtis wants to get to, and although he might have had other options in terms of international rugby, there was never any doubt about who he wanted to represent.

"My dad played for Ireland so from a young age it was always in the back of my mind," he insists.

"You can't really make a decision that early but at the end of school, my last year in Hilton was really good so I wanted to push on and give rugby a crack."

His journey to get to this point certainly hasn't been a conventional one but the IRFU have always kept tabs on his progress and when the offer to join Ulster's Academy came along, Curtis jumped at it.

"I came over from school in South Africa, I was born and grew up in Zimbabwe," he explains. "I came over year in January of last year. Finished school in November of 2016 so I linked up with the Ulster Academy from January 2017. I've been there for a year and a half now and I've loved the transition.

"I did junior school in Zimbabwe then when I was 13, I left for Hilton College where I was from 14 to 18. Schoolboy rugby in South Africa is really big and Hilton obviously prides themselves on their rugby and all their sports in general. The coaches there and the mentoring system, everything - it's massive preparation for coming here.

"Physicality-wise, South African rugby players are big boys and there's a massive emphasis on the physical side of the game. That did make coming over, especially going into club rugby and the next level, easier."

Playing with the U-20s has eased any concerns that Curtis may have made the wrong decision in moving to Ireland on his own, and that point was hammered home by getting to train with Joe Schmidt's side this week at Lansdowne Road.

awesome "It's been awesome," he enthuses. "Any time you get to put on your country's jersey, it's an awesome experience.

"Being in the set-up, from the camps four months ago to the build-up now, training with the seniors, the exposure and the whole experience is awesome. Everyone here is loving it."

The aim now is to build on the progress with the U-20s, finish the Six Nations on a high and then build towards the Junior World Cup in June.

"Our goal for Scotland is to get a good week of training and then just do what we can," Curtis adds.

"Hopefully then we are happy with a full 80-minute performance."

Irish Independent

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