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'It really bulletproofed a lot of his key muscles': How Bristol saved Sinckler's season

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Bristol boss Pat Lam has revealed that precautionary training ground work which took place after Kyle Sinckler arrived last year from Harlequins was crucial in ensuring that last week’s hamstring strain wasn’t more serious before the tighthead got the call on Sunday from Warren Gatland to join up with the Lions after the Gallagher Premiership season is over. 


Gatland brought Sinckler into his 37-strong squad 31 days after he had initially omitted him from the selection for South Africa. A toe injury to Andrew Porter resulted in the Ireland and Leinster front-rower dropping out of the Lions, paving the way for Sinckler to secure a reprieve. 

However, Bristol boss Lam reckons Sinckler would never have got that call if he hadn’t been working on specific exercises to ensure his body has a greater level of durability than before. Sinckler pulled up with a hamstring issue at training last Thursday that will see him only miss two games and be back for the Premiership semi-finals rather than be an injury doubt for the Lions.    

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“He should be fully ready to go for semi-finals rugby,” reported Lam at his weekly Bristol media briefing. “Thankfully the work that he has done with our RTP (Return To Perform) team this season, when he first came in they looked at his history of injuries and strains and they put a phenomenal programme for him to strengthen a lot of his key muscles as a scrummager and as a dynamic rugby player. 

“It would be fair to say that the injury he suffered on Thursday if he hadn’t had done that work that could have been a lot more serious and it’s a real credit to Kyle and the work that he has put in. It really bulletproofed a lot of his key muscles.

“When it [last week’s injury] first happened I thought, ‘Oh no’. But the great thing is since then the scan revealed that he could be back very soon and then he got the news for the Lions. He has been working away and I saw him out there today [Wednesday] and he should be fully fit, ready to go semi-finals week.”


Lam hailed Sinckler as an excellent example of how a player should respond to adversity, the prop picking up a few man of the match awards since his Lions omission and his emotional post-game TV interview two days after he was excluded by Gatland earned him rave reviews.  

“It wasn’t just the way that he reacted to the non-selection in the sense of his words and what he said, it’s his actions,” said Lam. “He has picked up two man of the match performances, not only by outside people but certainly from within the team, and that is a credit to him. A great example of how to turn a disappointment into a real positive and that is all you can do, that is all you can control and now he has been rewarded with selection. We are absolutely pleased for him.

“It was Sunday (when we heard). After Warren rang me and let me know, he rang Kyle so he knew and then once we knew the press release was going to go out, we sent it to our team group before that to give everyone a heads up and then the phone went non-stop, all the congratulations, everyone was happy, emojis and everything, and then we acknowledged him at our team meeting at the beginning of the week.”

It was November at England camp when Sinckler revealed that he felt he was only operating at 20 per cent capacity since joining Bristol during the lockdown from Harlequins. That revelation intrigued Lam as he felt the front-rower has been performing much better than that, but he has since realised what the prop meant by his assessment.  


“I wouldn’t put a percentage on it [how he is performing now] and I didn’t at the time, Kyle did. When I saw that number, all it means is there is (roof for) improvement, great news. I was thinking he was great but he has just got better and he has actually proven that. I thought he was good when he first came but he took it to another level.

“Even now if you gave Kyle a percentage, that number wouldn’t be near 100 per cent, I’m pretty sure of it because that is who Kyle is. He is determined to improve as a rugby player and as a person and we have seen a huge benefit of us being on our team and we enjoy him being here. He works hard on all areas of his game, he works hard on relationships in the group. 

“He is honest, he is challenging which is what we want in our team. One of our key things is to challenge things in a way that we want things to improve and I love it when he is doing it and is one of many. It is great and it’s hard to believe he is only in his 20s. There is a lot of big rugby still to come from him and we are pleased to have him here.”


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