Kyle Sinckler has been handed a job few every thought he would ever receive – captaining a team.
The tighthead has often been dismissed as a bit of a hothead on the pitch, with particular criticism arising following England’s Six Nations defeat last February by Wales in Cardiff.
Warren Gatland, the Welsh coach at the time, described Sinckler as “an emotional time bomb” in the lead-up to that pivotal fixture, a description fastened onto by RugbyPass columnist Andy Goode in the aftermath of the defeat.
“England had the game won in Cardiff but ill-discipline cost them once more and Kyle Sinckler was the biggest culprit,” wrote Goode.
“He played really well but him losing his head swung the momentum Wales’ way massively. Warren Gatland described him as an “emotional time bomb” in the build-up to the game and he was proved right.”
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Ten months later, following an enterprising World Cup in the England shirt, Sinckler’s now burgeoning reputation as someone to rely on has been endorsed by his club Harlequins.
The Londoners face Ulster on Friday night in a must-win Heineken Champions Cup encounter and with club skipper Chris Robshaw not in the mix following last Saturday’s defeat in Belfast, boss Paul Gustard has handed the captaincy for the game to Sinckler on his first home appearance of the season.
How he reacts to the responsibility will be intriguing, especially with a French referee set to take charge of the all-important tie that Quins have to win to stay alive in the competition.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 12, 2019
Sinckler’s inter-action with Alexandre Ruiz will be interesting, particularly if he himself is the player penalised for the concession of a penalty at some stage of the Twickenham Stoop encounter.
In other selection changes, Santiago Garcia Botta returns at loosehead prop following his recent wedding. Will Evans is also back after being rested for the last two weeks, Brett Herron makes his first European appearance for the club with Fijian winger Vereniki Goneva also starting his first game.
Harlequins boss Gustard said: “The players have taken good ownership of the week and driven the detail and energy. It is a great opportunity for a couple of our players who are returning from injury to move the jersey forward in what is a must-win game.”
HARLEQUINS: 15. Ross Chisholm; 14. Vereniki Goneva, 13. James Lang, 12. Francis Saili, 11. Cadan Murley; 10. Brett Herron, 9. Martin Landajo; 1. Santiago Garcia Botta, 2. Elia Elia, 3. Kyle Sinckler (capt), 4. Stephan Lewies, 5. Tex Cavubati, 6. Will Evans, 7. Semi Kunatani, 8. Alex Dombrandt. Reps: 16. Jack Musk, 17. Nick Auterac, 18. Simon Kerrod, 19. Dino Lamb, 20. James Chisholm, 21. Niall Saunders, 22. Paul Lasike, 23. Travis Ismaiel.
ULSTER: 15. Jacob Stockdale; 14. Matt Faddes, 13. Luke Marshall, 12. Stuart McCloskey, 11. Louis Ludik; 10. Billy Burns, 9. John Cooney; 1. Eric O’Sullivan, 2. Rob Herring, 3. Marty Moore, 4. Kieran Treadwell, 5. Iain Henderson (capt), 6. Sean Reidy, 7. Jordi Murphy, 8. Marcell Coetzee. Reps: 16. Adam McBurney, 17. Andy Warwick, 18. Tom O’Toole, 19. Alan O’Connor, 20. Matt Rea, 21. David Shanahan, 22. Bill Johnston, 23. Craig Gilroy.
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