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Harlequins’ Kyle Sinckler: ‘If I have not got fire in my belly I don’t want to play’ | Sport


Kyle Sinckler spent his first night with the Lions rooming with Taulupe Faletau at Wales’s training base in the Vale of Glamorgan. It would have been hard to find two more contrasting characters: Sinckler is larger-than-life and loquacious while Faletau, a tourist in 2013, is laid back and laconic.

The pair followed each other into the interview room. Faletau, the Wales and Bath No8, was first up, unfailingly polite and generally replying to questions in one sentence. Sinckler bustled in, shook everyone’s hand, decided the high chair reserved for him in front of the screen plastered with sponsors’ logos was not the safest construction for a prop of his build, picked up something more ergonomic and held court for 20 minutes before shaking the hands of all the reporters again and leaving with the broadest of grins.

Sinckler was not quite a bolter when the Lions’ squad was announced last month but he was one of the names decided late on having won his first cap for England only last autumn and understudied Dan Cole all season. The 24-year-old made his Harlequins debut in 2011 but has learned the virtue of patience thanks to the influence of his mentor at The Stoop, the former Wales and Lions prop Adam Jones, the tighthead in the 2013 Lions series in Australia.

“The Lions call-up came as a bit of a shock,” Sinckler said. “Bomb [Jones] has been a massive help to me. He has probably changed my life, to be honest. He took me under his wing from the day he arrived at Harlequins and has shown me what it takes to get to the top. My first thought when he came was that I was not going to play as much, but Conor [O’Shea, the club’s director of rugby when Jones joined two years ago] realised I needed someone who had been there and done it.”

When Harlequins played Northampton at home in February 2016, Sinckler was given only his second Premiership start of the campaign. “I remember being upset because I thought I should have had more starts,” he said. “I thought I was good, but last week I watched the game again and I was actually not that good. Bomb has instilled in me the mentality that you always need to drive to get better because you can always improve. All the great players have that attitude: good is never good enough.”

Warren Gatland praised Sinckler after the first training session this week. The prop who once got carried away by that was unmoved. “It was nice for him to say that, but I can get a lot better,” he said. “I thought I did OK, but I have to work harder. I am nowhere near where I want to be and there is so much for me to achieve in my career. I am fortunate to work with guys like Bomb, James Horwill and Graham Rowntree at Harlequins, Eddie Jones and the England coaches and now the Lions. I know what it takes to get to the top.”

England v Italy



Kyle Sinckler in action for England during their Six Nations win over Italy in February. Photograph: Matthew Impey/Rex/Shutterstock

Touring Australia with England last year proved seminal for Sinckler even though he never made the matchday 23 and watched the three Tests from the stand. “I said to myself when I was picked I had my chance. I thought I had worked quite hard but you do not know what working hard is until you train with Eddie. I suddenly realised I was a long way off: my body fat was too high and I was eight or nine kilos heavier than I am now. I realised my career could go one of two ways and it was the right decision of Eddie’s not to cap me on the tour.

“I came home and re-evaluated everything, my professionalism, nutrition, my set-piece stuff, my fitness and my body language. I sat down and told myself I was at the point where I was not a young kid any more, that I was 23 going on 24 and there were guys with however many caps and I was still on zero. I made the decision to get my head down even more and I was lucky enough to get my first cap in November, be involved in the Six Nations and to be sat with you guys here now. I have got to keep it up – and become a bit smarter.”

Rowntree, the Lions forwards coach for the third successive tour, described Sinckler as an angry young man, although he and others have helped the prop become more self-aware. “I don’t know if you call it angry or aggressive or uncompromising,” Sinckler said. “I only know how to play the game one way. If I go into a game and I have not got that fire in my belly and I am not excited about going out there to hit people for a living, then I don’t want to play. I need that passion. I have been told to calm down throughout my career but when I first trained with England Eddie was telling me to get more angry. I was like: ‘You said it.’ I have an edge to my game but have learned to stay on the right side.”

The coaches have said every player in the 41-man squad has a chance of being involved in the first Test and Sinckler is taking them at their word. “Warren is going to have to make some tough decisions. You have always got to prepare to play, otherwise what is the point? If I am called on, I will be ready, but I have learned from Bomb that it is not all about me; the team is the most important thing. I have to be the best team-mate I can, putting personal stuff to one side. No one is bigger than the jersey and what will be crucial for the Lions is getting unity quickly.”



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