England captain Tom Curry reminds Eddie Jones of All Blacks great Richie McCaw

Curry will lead England against Scotland in the absence of Owen Farrell and Courtney Lawes

Duncan Bech
Thursday 03 February 2022 14:54 GMT
Tom Curry will lead England in their Six Nations opener
Tom Curry will lead England in their Six Nations opener (Getty Images)

Eddie Jones views Tom Curry as a captain in the mould of All Blacks great Richie McCaw after promoting the Sale flanker as a statement of England’s intent against Scotland

Curry will take charge for the first time in Saturday’s Six Nations opener at Murrayfield to become the youngest player to lead England since Will Carling in 1988.

The all-action 23-year-old fills the leadership void created by the loss of Owen Farrell and Courtney Lawes to injury and will be supported by vice-captains Ellis Genge, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Henry Slade.

A world player of the year nominee in 2019, Curry has already accumulated 39 caps including three for the Lions in South Africa last summer and for Jones he was the automatic choice.

“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,” Jones said.

“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.”

Tom Curry is one of the first names on England’s team sheet (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)

Until recently England’s captaincy lineage followed a smooth path throughout Jones’ reign with Dylan Hartley eventually replaced by Owen Farrell, while George Ford occasionally deputised.

Farrell’s absence for the victories over Tonga and South Africa in November, however, accelerated the need to plot out a new succession plan.

Lawes performed the role with distinction but once he was forced to miss the start of the Six Nations because of concussion, 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. Players like to play with those sort of players, who lead by example,” Jones said.

“Tom’s got an 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.”

Carling has been passing on the wisdom accumulated during a 72-cap career that spanned nine years in his post as leadership mentor to Jones’ England and in Curry he has found a willing protegee.

“This means a hell of a lot to me. You grow up wanting to play for England so to be named captain is pretty emotional,” Curry said.

“Will has been a really good influence. As a leadership group we speak to him two to three times a week.

“We get a lot of advice from him on how he sees it and how we can improve. He’s been a great influence on the group as a whole. He’s said to be yourself and enjoy it.”

England have been ravaged by injury and the impact is seen across the team.

Marcus Smith has held off the challenge of George Ford to continue at fly-half where he will marshal a new-look midfield that features Slade at inside centre and Elliot Daly in the 13 jersey.

Joe Marchant has recovered from coronavirus in time to take his place on the left wing while Max Malins is picked at 14.

Maro Itoje is joined at lock by Nick Isiekwe, who was only called into the squad last week as cover for Lawes in the hope that the Northampton forward would pass the return to play protocols.

A much changed back row sees Curry switched from number eight to openside, Lewis Ludlam take over at six and Sam Simmonds complete the trio.

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