England prop Kyle Sinckler believes rugby should be taken to inner-city areas with the aim of helping to combat rising levels of knife crime.
Sinckler is from Tooting in south London and used sport to plot a purposeful path through adolescence when others were joining gangs and seeking out trouble to relieve their boredom.
The confrontational Harlequins tighthead makes his first appearance of England’s World Cup warm-up Tests as a replacement against Wales on Saturday, believing that gifted natural athletes are seeing their talents wasted in the absence of any opportunities.
“Everyone’s got different experiences. The more rugby puts itself out there in different communities, the more diverse it’s going to be,” Sinckler said. “Rugby could still do a better job of putting itself out in different communities and getting different kids.
“The area I’m from, you can teach a guy to pass and kick and play rugby, but you can’t teach someone to be strong as an ox or as fast as they are or have that edge in mentality. They just need that chance.
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“I was lucky. I got taken down to Battersea Ironsides and I had that chance. I tried to make the most of it. I feel in this current climate, especially in south London where I’m from, a lot of those kids don’t have that opportunity.
“That’s why there are a lot of things happening with the knife crime and stuff. They’re just bored. They haven’t got anything to do. When I was a kid I was quite lucky. I had rugby, football and cricket. I did kickboxing, weightlifting… I was always busy.”
Other forces in Sinckler’s life kept him on the right tracks, his mum Donna proving a more formidable adversary than England head coach Eddie Jones. “If I tried to do anything my mum would put me in my place! You think Eddie’s a tough customer…” Sinckler said.
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“She comes to a few of the games. It’s more if I want her there or not. She works quite hard. She still works night shifts for the police, which are 12 hours near Hammersmith. Sometimes she’s quite tired.”
Sinckler regularly returns to Battersea Ironsides, where his status as a club legend will only have grown now he has been picked in England’s World Cup squad. “They love it! I try and go down as much as I can and when I do to hand out the end-of-season awards, it’s good but carnage!” he said.
“There are kids hanging off my legs and all sorts. That’s what it’s about. I haven’t come through the conventional route of rugby. Battersea Ironsides, when I was there, we’d struggle to get 15 players on the field.
“At times we’d be borrowing players from the other team to play for us. And now to my understanding, it’s got the biggest minis section in the country. So we’ve come a long way. I’m proud of the club and where it’s going. It’s nice to give back.”
– Press Association
WATCH: The Rugby Pod react to the recently announced England World Cup squad
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