If the old tale about twins feeling each other’s pain is true, then spare a thought for the Curry brothers. Perhaps, in the darkest recovery days, Ben and Tom might even have wondered if there was some sort of curse on the family name – it’s been that sort of year for a pair who seem to have a timeshare on the treatment table.
11 months of injury woe began before the Six Nations, when a hamstring issue sidelined Tom for at least the first two rounds, opening the door for Ben’s inclusion in the England side for the opener against Scotland. A fit again Tom returned, but only briefly – Ben was back in camp soon enough after his brother tweaked his other hamstring.
Then, it was Ben’s turn, leaving Sale Sharks’ Premiership semi-final win over Leicester on a stretcher. That hamstring injury was severe enough to end his chances of forcing his way into Steve Borthwick’s World Cup squad. Throw in Tom’s ankle injury in August, his sending off against Argentina and everything that happened in the week of the World Cup final and the Currys could surely compare notes with the Baudelaire siblings on their own series of unfortunate events.
The latest blow came this week: Tom’s hip requires repair; his season for club and country is over. The tough times continue.
“It’s really unfortunate for Tom,” Ben says at the launch of the new Investec Champions Cup season. The pair still live together – they are considering a room reconfiguration to move Tom down from the top floor. “It is tough for him, on the back of the injury before the World Cup, but with the person he is, he will come back stronger. I have no doubt in his ability to come back from this.”
“The only bit of advice I’d give to him is to take the first few weeks to recover, not just physically, but mentally. He’s played a lot of rugby in the last few years and it does take it out of you.
“[I’d advise him to] take it for what it is, take your time away from the game so that when you come back, you properly go after it. It’s a good opportunity to get better, bigger, stronger, faster. You’ve got five months at it, so it can make a difference to how he plays and also his longevity as well if he gets it right.”
Both have suggested that their injury woes are purely part and parcel of the sport, particularly for two men who thrive at putting their heads and shoulders into places best not ventured. Ben’s hamstring tear, for example, came while winning a jackal turnover – “the penalty was the saving grace of all that; if I didn’t get it, I would have been fuming” – and the attrition rate for openside fetchers is higher than at perhaps any other position.
Not that Ben is going to change his playing style. “Not right now – maybe in a few years,” he explains. “For me, that’s how the best sevens play. It’s about having more involvements, being powerful, working a lot at a high intensity. If you look at David Pocock, Michael Hooper, or Richie McCaw in their prime, that’s how they did it. It’s tough but I don’t think there’s any way to really get around it as a seven, or a six as well.”
The twins’ travails are a reminder of the physical demands placed upon professional rugby players, but it is mentally tough, too. Tom Curry and the rest of the family were subjected to ”unacceptable” abuse after the flanker alleged that South Africa hooker Bongi Mbonambi directed a racial slur towards him during the World Cup semi-final. His brother, understandably, dares not go near the topic but the impact is clear.
Their injury woes mean the pair are yet to fulfil their dream of playing together for England, Ben’s back spasm in 2017 having originally opened the door for his brother to enjoy a breakthrough tour of Argentina. The nature of being identical twins means the pair are similarly skilled – squeezing them into the same back row isn’t necessarily easy.
But club captain Ben thrived on the openside last season, while Tom reinvented himself as a wide-carrying blindside as Sale reached the Premiership final. Alex Sanderson’s side are going well again this term – the table-topping Sharks face second-placed Bath on Friday night – and the prospect of pairing up on the flanks in a white shirt is driving Ben on as he bids to get back in the England mix.
“I’ve done it by myself, but I want to do it with Tom. I will be honest, that is one of the biggest things that motivates me, playing for England with Tom. That’s a big motivating factor for me. The day I can’t play for England with Tom I would seriously consider my options. To not be able to achieve that goal, I’d have to evaluate some things.
“To have gone through that period playing for England gives me belief. I got capped a few years ago against America and was probably like, ‘that isn’t quite it’. International rugby is those big games, against the Irelands, the Frances, those Six Nations sides. That was always my goal. To be able to dip your toe in a bit and get some experience is big for my confidence. [I want to] properly kick on now. That’s the aim.”