More concern for England as Tom Curry limps in Sale win over Harlequins

England faced a fresh injury problem heading into the Six Nations after Tom Curry limped off in the first quarter of Sale’s impressive win at Harlequins. The 24-year-old flanker has a strained right hamstring and faces a race against time to be fit for the Calcutta Cup match against Scotland on the road at Twickenham on February 4.

Exeter’s Luke Cowan-Dickie also suffered a worrying ankle injury over the weekend and Owen Farrell is awaiting the Citing Commissioner’s verdict following a controversial tackle at Gloucester on Friday night. Curry’s availability is therefore an added complication for new England head coach Steve Borthwick as he faces his first Six Nations campaign in charge.

Alex Sanderson, Sale’s director of rugby, was understandably more keen to dwell on the positives of his team’s latest hard-fought performance but suggested Curry would not play club rugby again until the opening weekend. of the tournament. “Even though hamstring injuries are the lowest, they usually last two to three weeks,” Sanderson said. “He’s going to have a scan. He was walking around but he stiffened up, fingers crossed he’ll be fine.

The most encouraging news for Borthwick is that Marcus Smith is set to return for the Quins in their European Pool game in Paris next weekend, having been sidelined recently with a sprained ankle. With fitness doubts still hanging over Courtney Lawes and Henry Arundell, Raffi Quirke and Will Stuart all currently out, there will be some relief within the new England regime that Manu Tuilagi has avoided any penalties on the pitch after a gruesome second-half collision that saw Quins fly-half Tommy Allen taken out on a stretcher.

The England center received no punishment after referee Wayne Barnes ruled the center’s rushing charge on a fall from Allen did not deserve a card of any suit and Sanderson suggested the officials properly handled the incident. “I thought it was a brilliant way to officiate the game these days. The guy was heading for the bridge, it was a purely accidental rugby incident as opposed to Manu’s recklessness. I thought it was Wayne Barnes at his best.

The effectiveness of Sale’s wet-weather rugby could not be disputed, with the visitors dealing much better with the soggy ground conditions and slippery ball. So much rain had fallen before kick-off that parts of the A316 outside the ground were flooded and it was difficult to keep possession of the ball throughout the game.

Sale Sharks celebrate Akker Van Der Merwe's try.
Sale Sharks celebrate Akker Van Der Merwe’s try. Photography: Ashley Western/Colorsport/Shutterstock

It was certainly not a day to study Quins’ attacking form in an English context following Nick Evans’ elevation to the national coaching panel, although the home side’s director of rugby Tabai Matson has suggested that England had taken a judicious nomination. “We are really excited for him. When our attack is going well, he is clearly the mastermind behind it. We are going to fill a big hole.

Matson also acknowledged that Evans could well end up joining England permanently, while the former All Black fly-half already looks keen to get going and hopes to ‘bring energy’ to the England attack . “There’s not a lot of time, so systems and structures aren’t going to change massively,” Evans said. “It will be about bringing energy and conviction.”

Sale certainly has a few people who should at least deserve a place in Borthwick’s England first team. Sam and Luke James again showed their no-frills ability while wingers Aaron Reed and O’Flaherty didn’t hurt their reputations behind a muscular pack not obviously bothered by Curry’s early departure.

Ben Curry and Simon McIntyre may have struggled to catch the attention of Eddie Jones, but the pair were once again influential as Sale made the most of Quins’ slow start. Tom O’Flaherty splashed for his side’s first try after 18 minutes before Rob du Preez hit a chip in front to add a second and help the Sharks take a 14-6 halftime lead.

The maroon-clad visitors added a third in the 54th minute through dynamic hooker Akker van der Merwe before Cobus Wiese netted his fourth try from close range early in the final quarter. Tuilagi had a mixed afternoon against the equally hard-hitting Andre Esterhuizen, but both homegrown second-half tries by Joe Marchant and Nick David were scored mostly against the run of play.

That leaves Sale, who stuck 40 points at Leicester in their previous outing, sitting in second place behind top-ranked Saracens. The Quins, third, on the other hand lost their last three Premiership games and are 12 points behind the Sharks, with attention turning to Europe over the next fortnight.

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