Eddie Jones believes “Kamikaze kids” Tom Curry and Sam Underhill can smash England straight through any World Cup turgidity.
Head coach Jones hopes to field twin openside flanker threats Curry and Underhill in the same back row tomorrow when England host Ireland at Twickenham. The wily Australian boss wanted to pair up the natural scavengers in the first warm-up match against Wales, but injuries derailed that plan.
Jones believes the ball-hunting duo could hand England a World Cup edge if the Japan tournament revolves around the breakdown and cannot wait to see the destructive pair in action.
“They are like the Kamikaze kids, those two,” said Jones. “Playing two guys who are pretty good at the breakdown might give us an advantage in that area. They hit everything. They hit everything that moves. But off the pitch they’re nice public schoolboys.
“We wanted to try it in the first game against Wales. That was the first time they were available to do it. In Curry, what I see on the training pitch is a guy who is progressing rapidly. Physically, for a 20-year-old, he is incredible.
“We’re asking, ‘Is this a strategic (refereeing) move by World Rugby for the World Cup?’ And the answer is, ‘We don’t know’. We’ll just have to adapt and find out. What we want to be able to do is pick teams who can cope with this.
“You’ve just got to see what’s happening in the game, the number of kicks. Why are people kicking the ball more? Because you can’t get fast ball. So you’ve got to work out why you can’t get fast ball.”
Bath flanker Underhill accepted Jones’ “Kamikaze kid” nickname for the clear compliment intended, hoping he and Curry can emulate the kind of impact David Pocock and Michael Hooper can boast for Australia.
“I resent being thrown into that category with Tom — he has injured far more people in training than I have, he’s a nutter!” joked Underhill. “I am glad I am on the same side of him for training. But a healthy disregard for your own wellbeing is pretty essential if you are playing rugby in general, so I will take that as a compliment.
“Australia and Wales are big into it too, Ireland have done it with Dan Leavy and Josh van der Flier. You are getting to a point where you are not really a six or seven, you’re a flanker, a back-rower. I have played against teams with two sevens and it is just a different dynamic and a different sort of contest.”
Former Worcester centre Ben Te’o has signed for Toulon, having been omitted from England’s ranks after a reported row with Mike Brown. England and Jones had refused to confirm that issue between Te’o and Brown, but the head coach still jettisoned both players.
Jones insisted he remains unfazed by Te’o’s decision to join Toulon, a move that rules him out of any World Cup replacement role, and hinted that the ex-rugby league star was not on his standby list anyway.
“Everyone makes a choice, Ben’s made his choice,” said Jones.
“So we wish him all the best and we just get on with it. We got some word that was about to happen. Everyone makes their choice, we were happy for him to make his choice.”
Asked if Te’o’s decision caused a standby list rethink, Jones said: “Not really, no. We’ve got that in place.”