Tom Curry is out of contention for Sale’s Premiership play-off qualification decider at Saracens on Saturday, amid renewed doubts about his prospects of taking part in England’s summer tour.

The 25-year-old flanker has not played since the World Cup last autumn, having had major hip surgery. 

He was initially expected to miss the domestic season, before a rapid recovery raised his and his club’s hopes that he could be cleared for a comeback in north London, in a repeat of last year’s league final, which Sale have to win to be sure of a top-four finish.

But when asked for the latest bulletin about Curry’s availability, his director of rugby, Alex Sanderson, said: ‘I’ll have to call it; no, he’s not (fit to play). ‘He’s not far off, but unfortunately he hasn’t made it.

‘We haven’t done enough rugby exposure with him, for him to feel confident. He’s moving incredibly well and he’s having like a pre-season week. He’s getting rinsed and that’s what he wanted to happen. He came in this morning and said he was feeling stiff so I just said, “Well, you asked for it”! He’s there or there abouts and we’ll make a call, if we give ourselves the opportunity to play a semi-final. He would have a great chance.’

Tom Curry is out of contention for Sale's play-off qualification decider against Saracens

Tom Curry is out of contention for Sale’s play-off qualification decider against Saracens

Curry has not played since the World Cup after undergoing major hip surgery in the aftermath

Curry has not played since the World Cup after undergoing major hip surgery in the aftermath

Sanderson explained how increasing optimism that Tom – twin brother of Sale captain Ben Curry – would be ready to face champions Saracens gave way to a dose of realism late last week. 

‘We were talking on Wednesday night, he was moving really well and the pair of us were getting really excited,’ he said. ‘It was like, “How good is this? You’re back mate”.

‘That was at five o clock last Wednesday night. But then I got a text at half past seven saying, “Can we meet for coffee?”. It was a proper chat, without the emotion. What is best for Tom Curry?

‘I think 18 months ago, before his consecutive hamstring pulls and all these things relating to his pelvis and his hip, he would have probably done it (returned to play). We feel this is a growth in terms of his maturity, to do the right thing for him, to ensure he doesn’t play under par and he has a lot more years in him, rather than burning himself out.’

When Sanderson met Curry to have that sensible conversation, he raised the issue of whether or not the acclaimed openside will make the trip to Japan and New Zealand with England this summer. It is not yet resolved, but the chances must be fading now – with the possibility that an extended break will be deemed the logical course of action.

Asked if Sale are in dialogue with the Red Rose management, Sanderson added: ‘We are from a medical perspective, but I’m not from a rugby and coaching perspective, yet. I broached the subject last Thursday at Gail’s in Knutsford and he (Curry) was like, “Let’s just focus on me getting ready for a possible semi-final, then we will talk about the summer”. He is very much in the moment with it all and doesn’t want to focus too far ahead.’

Meanwhile, Ollie Sleightholme has been hailed as the best finisher in the Gallagher Premiership and tipped for a first senior England call-up after he helped Northampton seal a home semi-final.

Sleightholme grabbed a hat-trick in Saints’ 90-0 demolition of Gloucester last Saturday to move to 14 league tries for the season and extend his lead as the division’s leading marksman.

Sale Sharks director Alex Sanderson said Curry would have a 'great chance' of playing if they give themselves the opportunity to play in the semi-final

Sale Sharks director Alex Sanderson said Curry would have a ‘great chance’ of playing if they give themselves the opportunity to play in the semi-final

The 24-year-old’s stunning form means he should be considered for England’s summer matches with Japan and New Zealand, according to Northampton attack coach Sam Vesty.

‘I think he’s the best finisher in the league and he’s doing lots of good things consistently. I hope he gets a good shot (with England) and I know his name is being talked about,’ Vesty said.

‘There are some fantastic wingers in England but Ollie’s name should be in that group. Hopefully he gets the nod. He’s shown a really good consistent level.

‘When you create space for Ollie, you know he’s going to do the rest. Ollie is fantastic and such a pleasure to coach. This year he’s got himself into such a sweet spot. He’s worked hard on getting more involvements in the game and has really improved.

‘He’s found more ways to get on the ball and when you do that and you’re as quick and as powerful as he is, then you’re going to score.’

Ollie Sleightholme has been tipped for a first senior England call-up after helping the Northampton Saints seal a home semi-final

Ollie Sleightholme has been tipped for a first senior England call-up after helping the Northampton Saints seal a home semi-final

Sleightholme’s father Jon was a Northampton favourite in the 1990’s and won 12 England caps.

National coach Steve Borthwick had another Northampton man in Tommy Freeman, Exeter tyro Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, and the experienced Elliot Daly as wing options in the Six Nations. But Sleightholme is now pushing hard for a first senior call. He was part of the England A squad for their fixture with Portugal in February but did not play.

With a home play-off already secured, Northampton are set to rotate their side for their ‘Super Saturday’ visit to Bath on the final day of the regular Premiership season.

Saracens have confirmed the long-anticipated departure of England stars Mako and Billy Vunipola who are both expected to join French side Montpellier.

Another former England international in Gloucester wing Jonny May is also leaving the Premiership.

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