All Blacks prop Joe Moody refused to give an inch when quizzed about the prospect of coming up against in-form England prop Kyle Sinckler ahead of Saturday’s World Cup semi-final bout.
Moody will face off against the fiery tighthead Sinckler in what is set to be a crucial clash between the front-rowers in Yokohama, but he didn’t indulge in any pre-match banter when presented the opportunity by reporters on Friday.
In fact, the 44-test veteran suggested he had given little thought at all about the British and Irish Lions star, who shone in a try-scoring display during England’s 40-16 dismantling of Australia in last week’s quarter-final in Oita.
“I haven’t really had any focus on anyone in particular,” Moody said when asked about coming up against Sinckler.
“We have some classic forward battles between us (the All Blacks and England) in the past, but it should be good to get out there.”
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It will be just the third time the duo will play against each other in the international arena, with the prior two times coming during the 2017 Lions tour of New Zealand.
Moody started in all three of the All Blacks’ tests, while Sinckler came off the bench in the first two tests.
With just eight caps to his name leading into the tour, Sinckler wasn’t a standout name among the All Blacks faithful when he first arrived on Kiwi shores two years ago, but he became more familiar following the second test, of which the Lions won 24-21 in Wellington.
Television footage showed him winding up All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara after full-time, with a push-and-shove exchange ensuing shortly afterwards.
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Then-All Blacks Jerome Kaino and Israel Dagg also appeared to engage in the minor scuffle before the situation was defused and the teams headed off to their respective dressing rooms.
Days later, All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said the incident might be something Sinckler regretted in hindsight.
“It’s just one of those things again that happens with emotions,” Hansen said at the time.
“It’s a bit like having a fight with your wife, isn’t it, you say things you don’t mean don’t mean at the time. He probably said some things he didn’t mean at the time… a bit emotional.”
It’s not the only time Sinckler’s temperament has been discussed by other international head coaches.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland labelled the 26-year-old an “emotional time bomb” prior to his side’s 21-13 Six Nations victory over England earlier this year.
After the match, Gatland, who was the Lions head coach during their 2017 tour, said Sinckler “probably has a few demons to deal with” after the prop gave away two costly penalties in quick succession during the encounter.
However, the 32-test front-rower showed signs of maturity during his side’s win over the Wallabies seven days ago when he ignored Australian hooker Tolu Latu’s attempt to wind him up after he lost a scrum battle early in the first half.
It was Sinckler who had the last laugh, however, as he scored a critical try in the 46th minute to instigate the first of England’s 23 unanswered points in the second half en route to booting Michael Cheika’s side out of the tournament.
Kick-off England’s semi-final clash against the All Blacks is set for 5pm local time.
Rugby World Cup sandwich survey with All Blacks legend Justin Marshall:
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