Updated: Tuesday, 22nd October 2019 @ 3:31pm

'Tough Nut Tom': Sale Sharks' Curry has world at his feet if he can stay grounded, says England teammate Vunipola

'Tough Nut Tom': Sale Sharks' Curry has world at his feet if he can stay grounded, says England teammate Vunipola

| By Andy Baber

Staying grounded amid the hype will be crucial for Tom Curry after his electrifying performances for England in the Guinness Six Nations, claims back-row teammate Billy Vunipola.

The 20-year-old Sale Sharks openside flanker started every game for England in the Championship, playing 360 minutes in total as he helped the Red Rose to second in the table.

His incredible contribution, which included two tries and 97 tackles – the most of any player in the Championship - earned him a place on the shortlist for the Player of the Championship.

But while Curry now appears to be nailed on for the openside flanker berth at the World Cup, Vunipola insists his fellow international must not let the praise get to his head.

“It’s good playing with Tom and Mark, but we all know that we’re always fighting for our positions, I’m excited to be back now and looking forward to finish the season strongly,” he said, speaking on behalf of Land Rover.

“I think the maturity that Tom showed as a 20-year-old impressed me, also you can see that he’s a tough nut and I think what’s important for him is that he stays grounded.

“He is very humble and he works hard, if he can stay that way he’ll be fine. You hope he’ll keep progressing and getting better, especially when he’s only 20.

“He’s obviously done amazingly well already and more for us as team with England, we hope he carries on with the same way going forward.”

Vunipola formed a formidable partnership with Curry and Mark Wilson during the Championship, while Wasps’ Brad Shields grabbed a brace in his only start in England’s 57-14 win over Italy.

And with players such as Chris Robshaw, Jack Clifford and Saracens teammate Ben Earl also vying for place at the Rugby World Cup, Vunipola admits no one can take their place for granted.

“Everyone has a different story and it applies for Mark Wilson,” Vunipola continued. “It’s taken him a while to break into the team but once he has he’s taken his chance.

“Hopefully he can stay fit and stay on form and get even better. We’re now excited to be back with our clubs and we’ll just be concentrating on the run in.

“We’re all fighting for our places, everything shifts from week to week, Brad is one of the candidates just as I am and we have to keep playing well for our clubs.

“You have to stay within the framework of how our clubs play and hopefully that will project us into the team again, but you can never take anything for granted.

“We just have to keep our head down and keep working. Brad says the right things at the right times, he’s a man of few words but when he say it it’s usually at the right time.

“The main thing we worry about is helping the team. Those accolades come with playing, not sure as a back row we go into games wanting to score tries, we just put ourselves in position.

“We just want to play as many games as we can and play them well. If Eddie wants us to play that certain game then we will, it’s not up to us.”

Vunipola is also feeling positive about England’s progress going into the final run in for the World Cup, despite finishing the Championship with a thrilling 38-38 draw with Scotland.

“At the end of the day, we wanted to have confidence going into the next batch of games that we have which is in August before the World Cup and I think we got that,” he said.

“But to be honest, it’s disappointing that we couldn’t win the whole thing because that’s all we want to do, I had a great time in camp and next time we meet up we can build on what we set up.”

Vunipola was speaking as he and fellow Premiership Rugby players from Saracens and Harlequins were leading a coaching session on behalf of Land Rover at Beaconsfield RFC, putting London rivalries to one side, in aid of supporting grassroots rugby.

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