England back-row Tom Curry has taken a significant stride forward in his return from major hip surgery and is looking in “great shape” in training, Sale Sharks head coach Alex Sanderson has said.

The 25-year-old former Malpas schoolboy has not played since England’s bronze final win over Argentina at last year’s Rugby World Cup, following surgery to address arthritic change and tears to the labrum and cartilage.

But Sanderson said Curry came through his first high-intensity training session with the rest of the Sale squad this week and came out top amongst his team-mates in a number of measures, a hugely-promising sign after months of rehabilitation.

“He got through it well, he was communicating and driving standards really well,” Sanderson said. “We don’t know how he’ll get through the week.

“This is his first full week training but we’ll have a better idea, probably on Thursday, in terms of how his body is feeling.

“I’m surprised how well he’s moving. He topped (all the measures). I know it was only one block, but for someone who has been out as long as he has, he’s come back in great shape. His ability to back that up is what we question now.

“He moves so well, he talks so passionately, he’s a phenomenal athlete and an outstanding player. Providing his fitness is alright, he’s not far away.”