England coach Eddie Jones compared Tom Curry with New Zealand great Richie McCaw after naming the flanker as captain for Saturday’s Six Nations opener away to Scotland.
Curry, 23, becomes England’s youngest skipper since Will Carling in 1988, with first-choice captain Owen Farrell and back-up Courtney Lawes both ruled out of the Calcutta Cup clash.
England had hoped Farrell, who plays at fly-half or centre, would recover in time for the latest edition of Test rugby’s oldest fixture in Edinburgh but he been sidelined from the entire Six Nations with an ankle injury.
Lawes, the stand-in skipper for wins over Tonga and world champions South Africa in November, is also unavailable as the forward is still recovering from a head knock suffered while playing for club side Northampton.
Both Ben Youngs and Maro Itoje are more experienced than the 36-times capped Curry but Jones told reporters: “Captaincy is not about the number of caps.
“Captaincy is about the person who can lead a group of players on the field, lead by example. And there is no better player in our squad than Tom Curry to do that.”
The veteran Australian coach said Curry reminded him of McCaw, one of rugby’s greatest back-row forwards.
“He (Curry) reminds me of a young Richie McCaw who was able to lead by example and as he progresses there will be other bits of pieces of his captaincy that goes with that.”
Curry, who has captained Sale when Jono Ross and Lood de Jager have been injured, said he was honoured to be handed the task of leading England.
“It means a hell of a lot,” he said. “You grow up wanting to play for England. To be named captain is pretty emotional. The big thing is that we do a job.”
In the backs, Marcus Smith will continue at fly-half after holding off the challenge of No. 10 George Ford.
With Farrell and Manu Tuilagi both injured, Jones has opted for a midfield combination of Henry Slade and the recalled Elliot Daly, with Joe Marchant, out of Covid isolation, and Max Malins on the wings.
The versatile Daly, who can also play at full-back or on the wing, was at outside centre for the first two Tests of last year’s British and Irish Lions series in South Africa.
In the pack, No. 8 Sam Simmonds makes his first start for England since 2018 in a back row also featuring Lewis Ludlam
Nick Isiekwe, only called in as cover for Lawes last week, partners Maro Itoje in the second row, with prop Ellis Genge preferred to Joe Marler.
Jones, typically, said all the pressure was on Scotland, who last year beat England at Twickenham for the first time in 38 years in a match held behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s the first time I’ve had the experience of going up there when Scotland have been red-hot favourites,” he said.
“They’re expected to win… they’ve got to cope with that. We can’t wait to get up there.”
“And the best thing about it is that we’re going to play in Scottish weather,” added Jones, referring to the forecast of rain and swirling winds at Murrayfield.
“This is a special game, it’s been going for 151 years. It means a lot to both countries and it’s the first time I’ve gone there as the underdogs.”
Freddie Steward; Max Malins, Elliot Daly, Henry Slade, Joe Marchant; Marcus Smith, Ben Youngs; Sam Simmonds, Tom Curry (capt), Lewis Ludlam; Nick Isiekwe, Maro Itoje; Kyle Sinckler, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge
Replacements: Jamie George, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Alex Dombrandt, Harry Randall, George Ford, Jack Nowell
Coach: Eddie Jones (AUS)