There can be little doubt in anyone’s mind that Tom Curry is the find of the Eddie Jones era, writes Charlie Talbot-Smith.
But the 21-year-old is putting together such an incredible body of work only 17 caps into his international career, that we might soon have to ask, is he the best player of this Jones era, full stop?
Saturday night in Oita was as near to a perfect back row performance as you will ever hope to see.
An openside by trade, Curry is doing his work in the No.6 shirt out here in Japan and even stepped in at No.8 in the second half against Argentina a fortnight ago.
The kid can pass, just watch how he draws and releases the last man for Jonny May’s opener, increasingly he can soar at the lineout and he can most certainly tackle.
17 in total on Saturday against the Wallabies was his final tally, but that doesn't tell the half of it.
His back-to-back try-savers on Isi Naisarani and Samu Kerevi in the vital goalline stand around the hour mark effectively ended any Aussie hopes of a fightback.
And it is pretty clear which of his skillsets he enjoys the most – the smile on both his and Sam Underhill's face after he crunched Reece Hodge in the first half gave that away.
"I can't speak on behalf of most people but you play rugby for the physicality. When you get moments like that, it's special," he said afterwards.
"Especially watching Sam off the kick-offs, those big tackles he was putting in. It is special to watch and encourages everyone. They are big statements.
“It would be a bit weird if I said making a tackle is probably more exciting than running with the ball.”
Weird it might be, but clearly Curry is not your normal 21-year-old.
It is only Curry and Underhill in this England starting XV that had never made an England squad before Jones took over.
The Kamikaze Kids are a Jones discovery. They have won a combined 28 caps, but up against two of the greatest flankers to ever play the game in David Pocock and Michael Hooper on Saturday, they were totally undaunted.
"I realised what a special occasion it is and unbelievably exciting. These are the games you grew up watching and wanted to play in,” added Curry.
The occasions only get bigger from here.
The All Blacks lie in wait in the semi-finals, and Curry has never before faced off against the world champions.
So while the Sale Shark can cherish his man of the match medal tonight, tomorrow is a different story.
“This was the biggest night of my career,” he added. “But we have this week to prepare for next. As a boy growing up, I probably speak on behalf of every rugby player, those are the games you want to play in.
“There might be a six year-old watching that game today and it might inspire them, the whole team performance. I realised what a special occasion it is and unbelievably exciting.
“We have got tomorrow to relax mentally and physically and I am sure everyone has said, we want to go again, we are excited and have got so much more to give and that is what really drives us.”
And if Curry wants some insight into what a World Cup semi-final is all about, he doesn’t have to look very far for advice.
Team manager Richard Hill was England’s blindside 16 years ago when England won it all Down Under.
And the former flanker has long been Curry’s counsellor and confidant.
Pretty much the only thing Tom Curry got wrong today... https://t.co/Wmnz2EPRm2— Charlie Talbot-Smith (@talbotsmith) October 19, 2019
“Having him as a mentor for five or six years has been huge for me,” Curry added.
“He would come to school or every time I played, we would have a phone call. He was hugely instrumental for me and my brother, plus probably a lot of players coming through. A person of his calibre, a World Cup winner, he is unbelievable.
“At the start it was probably my Dad who got more excited about it!
“But he had such an all-around game. He could pick off anything, he could analyse anything.”
Hill is often labelled the unsung hero of that 2003 vintage.
If the man of the match awards keep coming Curry’s way, there will be nothing unsung about England’s latest back-row bruiser.
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