Monday 16 September 2019

Jones set to unleash 'kamikaze kids' as he prepares England to double up

Eddie Jones has named a strong line-up for Saturday’s game against Ireland. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images
Eddie Jones has named a strong line-up for Saturday’s game against Ireland. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

Mick Cleary

Eddie Jones is to invoke England's own samurai spirit in time for events in Japan by unleashing what he calls "the kamikaze kids" - openside flankers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill - for the first time together in tomorrow's World Cup warm-up match against Ireland at Twickenham.

Jones had intended to pair the two traditional No 7s against Wales in the first match, only for an injury to Underhill.

England have detected that referees are allowing greater scope to contest the ball at the breakdown, Jones has opted to double-bank his opensides, securing possession as well as slowing down the opposition.

In what is the strongest England line-up of this pre-tournament phase, Underhill and Curry are sure to bring their abrasive style of play to the game and lay claim to selection in the World Cup. Certainly Jones is an admirer of the guts and grunt they bring to their work.

"They are like the kamikaze kids, those two," Jones said, upbeat at the possibilities presented given that he used to bemoan the fact that England had no natural sevens, only a 6½ in Chris Robshaw.

"They hit everything. Off the pitch they might be nice public schoolboys but on it they hit everything that moves. We have probably now got three sevens in that we also have Lewis Ludlam.

"That is good news for us because I see a change in the way that the game is being refereed. The tackler is being allowed to stay in the tackle, which means the ability to poach has increased.

"Curry is big enough to play six. Physically, for a 21-year-old, he is incredible. I haven't seen a player like him. He's strong, fast and he's got an aggressive attitude.

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"He is not a small lad, he is not a fetcher, so this is a realistic option for us. The way the laws are being interpreted at the moment allows for a strong contest.

"Whether that changes for the World Cup, it doesn't appear to be during these warm-up games, so we want to make sure we are well-cooked to play that sort of game.

"You have just got to see what is happening; the number of kicks. Why are teams kicking the ball more? Because you can't get fast ball."

The pair have been great value for England over the last couple of years, with injury - first to Underhill, two years older at 23, and then Curry - meaning that the two have rarely been available at the same time.

The two players will mix and match roles as they look to dovetail rather than compete. They believe that the fact that they are potentially rivals for the No 7 shirt as well as team-mates will not hinder the England cause, far from it in the eyes of Bath's Underhill.

"I think we will complement each other," he said. "When we train against each other it is quite easy because we compete all the time. I am looking at him and thinking, 'I am trying to beat him to stuff, get on the ball more than him.' We are trying to compete with each other.


"He is probably thinking the same thing, 'I want to beat you because I want the seven shirt.' We get on really well.

"The key for the two of us is going to be maintaining that level of competition when we are on the same team. But I think we will probably drive each other and try and compete with each other.

"It's about balance. The way the game is going, everyone is expected to do everything: locks jackal and hookers put little kicks through. That kind of plays into playing two traditional sevens."

Sale's Curry concedes that they are "both branded weird", which may be down to the fact he is a sleepwalker as well as a snorer, so not top of anyone's list for an ideal room-mate.

Curry, who has put on almost a stone in weight since making his debut on the tour to Argentina two years ago, is not the least bit dozy when it comes to articulating the roles each play and their respective styles.

"We are on-point about what we need to do," Curry said. "Sam is a bit more direct and physical in his carries while I am more feet, hands, tip, trying to spot the gap. We look to bring the best out of each other."

If they do, England's prospects will be all the better for it. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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