England’s Tom Curry had a pretty good 2019. At just 21, he was not only the youngest player in the squad, but also the youngest England forward to play at a World Cup, where they reached the final. He was one of six shortlisted for World Rugby Player of the Year and also helped Sale reach the European Challenge Cup semi-finals. Here he gives us an insight into his World Cup experience, what it’s like playing with his twin brother, fame and… cats.
World Cup heartache and being trolled by Faf
Coming back to England having lost the World Cup final was awful. The day I returned to Sale for training, I felt something on my shoulder – I turned round to see a World Cup winner’s medal and my smiling team-mate Faf de Klerk.
At the time I was a bit miffed – it is a bit harsh – but that’s how the South Africans are, and especially Faf. It’s all meant in good jest.
The World Cup is such a funny thing. Everything happens so quickly – bang, bang, bang, bang.
In one game I ran past the Webb Ellis Cup on its stand and I was like: ‘Wow, that’s what I’ve dreamed of winning.’ That’s when you realise you’re playing in a World Cup.
Obviously losing a World Cup final is disappointing. It’s horrible. I’ll get over it – but, to be honest, I don’t think I ever do want to get over it.
I will probably never be able to watch it. But it does trigger something, and hopefully it will push me on to greater things.
One loss doesn’t make you want to win things, though. I’ve been wanting to win things since I came out of the womb.
‘Undercurry’ and Eddie
We’ve had ‘Brangelina’, ‘Moliwood’ and now ‘Undercurry’. The lads loved giving Sam [Underhill] and me stick for our new nickname.
It all started in pre-season. What England did really well was to push everybody but bring people together too, and we definitely got closer than we have done before.
I never played with Sam at youth level, but when I played for England Under-18s, I was asked to publicly critique his performance in a game. I just remember one tackle which he didn’t get right at all and I picked it apart. We laugh about it now.
The pre-World Cup camp was different to anything I’ve experienced.
We got 20 weeks together, which is rare. Eddie [Jones] as a coach is brilliant. He makes the small things big and the big things small – things most people don’t even think about.
Eddie lets us solve things on the training pitch. He only steps in if he needs to. Meetings are 10-15 minutes max because of players’ concentration. But they are fun meetings. You always come out with what you need.
Eddie knows how to treat everyone – as individuals. Some people need a more relaxed approach, they don’t need to be looked at under a magnifying glass. They just need to be left to it. Others need a kick up the backside.
For me, it’s all about the magnifying glass. Staying on everything. That’s probably the same for most of the back row as it’s such a crucial role. We’ve got our fingers in every piece of the pie.
Failing Man City trials with brother Ben
Having Ben as a twin brother is great. But, like all siblings, he does drive me mad some of the time.
We are tight, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t competitive. I think that’s driven by the fact we play a similar position and have similar attributes.
I don’t feel guilty about going to the World Cup without him. You’ve just got to let it go. He’ll get his chance – he’s a very very talented player.
The thing he’s most upset about is not me playing in a World Cup final, but the fact I came back more muscular than him!
I do owe Ben one, though, because I’m the main reason we didn’t become professional footballers.
One day, scouts from Manchester City came to watch our school team play. I was running on the stairs, tripped over and split my shin open, so ended up getting rushed to hospital and couldn’t play. Luckily the scouts were impressed with Ben at centre-back and when they found out he had an identical twin they were like: ‘Great, bring them both along.’
A few months down the line, we were playing for City against this Dutch team. I tried to head the ball back to the goalkeeper but instead placed a beautiful header straight past him into the goal.
And that was that. That was our football career over. So, long story short, Ben got us in and I got us out!
Supermarket Sweep… with cats
Pretty foolishly I mentioned to the media that I thought cat cafes were pretty interesting.
So, basically, from then on, in every news conference at the World Cup, it was: “Tom, have you been to a cat cafe yet?”
It was brilliant for me, because I didn’t have to talk about anything rugby related.
When we were in Miyazaki there was a cat shrine that I really wanted to go to and I put it out to the lads. The WhatsApp group has never been so quiet. No-one would come with me.
I thought because a cafe is chilling and drinks, a cat cafe would be chilling, drinks and cats. No.
You know in Supermarket Sweep where you run around trying to get everything in the trolley? It’s like that but with cats – running around trying to stroke them all, because you pay for time, every 10 minutes.
I went with my dad and he doesn’t want to pay extra, so we were in at 10am and out at 10.09am. The drinks are from a vending machine in the corner.
I’d been talking about it forever, and it was so underwhelming.
Tom Curry was speaking to BBC Sport’s Henry Ditchfield.