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Kyle Sinckler's riveting citing hearing evidence: Claims tackle was potential leg-breaker, accuses Exeter players of laughing at him

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Bristol prop Kyle Sinckler has claimed he saw his career flash by before him when tackled by Luke Cowan-Dickie in the recent Gallagher Premiership match that led to the two-match ban for swearing at the referee which will sideline him from England selection for the opening round of the Guinness Six Nations championship.


The England tighthead, who felt the tackle was a potential leg breaker, also accused Exeter players of laughing at him and telling him to stop being a pussy followed his heated reaction during the January 9 league game at Sandy Park.

Having aggressively shouted “Are you f***ing serious? in the direction of referee Karl Dickson, Sinckler was given an on-pitch dressing down by the official and was cited post-match for failing to respect the authority of the match officials.

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When the verdict was released on January 13 announcing that Sinckler would be banned for two games, the RFU media release was published without the short form judgment that usually accompanies the handing down of suspensions.

However, the ten-page document has now been published online on the RFU website and it makes for riveting reading, especially the testimony provided by Sinckler in response to the charge. Initial evidence from referee Dickson read: “Kyle was a ball carrier and Luke came into tackle him low. From where I was stood I deemed the tackle legal and said he had gone with two arms to wrap.

“At that point, I heard Kyle say something but wasn’t entirely sure what he had said but knew he had used the word f***ing and wasn’t sure if it was being directed at me or another player. So when play stopped I made sure I told him if you shouted and used that kind of language again he would leave the field. Within two minutes of the incident, he apologised to me.”


Legal counsel for Sinckler, Sam Jones, then summarised the position of the player before Sinckler gave his evidence. Jones outlined:

1. The player and the club [Bristol] support the core values of rugby. They are proper principles and they have their proper place in the game. The player’s position as to what happened and the submissions on his behalf should not be seen as undermining those core values. The player holds them very dearly.

2. The player accepts there was ‘foul play’. It could and should have been sanctioned either by a penalty or a yellow card, a red card went too far [in his closing submissions to the panel, counsel for the player submitted that the conduct may not even have merited a yellow card].

3. The player did not seek to condone his behaviour. He had apologised on Twitter.


It was then the turn of Sinckler to say his piece to the three-person disciplinary panel consisting of Richard Whittam (chair), Becky Essex and Leon Lloyd. He apologised immediately apologised for his conduct, admitting he had let the public, particularly the kids watching, down and he had let rugby down. As he put it, “It was not a great look.”

The evidence continued: “After the game, he saw that there was a significant reaction on social media about his conduct. He said that he was deeply sorry and he wholly regretted his conduct, particularly to an official who he had played with for seven/eight years and who had helped him with his career.

“With regard to the incident itself, he described receiving the ball and the tackler coming in from his blindside where he could not see him. The player stepped off his left foot. He saw the Exeter No2 for a millisecond. He was diving at the player’s knees, he went to the ground and had difficulty presenting the ball.

“He thought the tackle potentially could have broken his leg. It was an illegal tackle [no arms] and was found to be so by the referee on review. In a previous season, he had been tackled in a similar way and suffered an injury that ended his season. The player still has to deal with that injury today.

“In this instance, he could not brace for impact. That previous injury contributed to his reaction. His whole career flashed in front of him. He spoke of his pride in his England and British and Irish Lions caps. As soon as he hit the floor his concern was for his left leg and was scared for his safety.

“He was in shock after a tackle of that nature by someone he considered to be a good friend of his. The Exeter players were laughing at him, saying things to the effect of stop being a pussy. The pressure he was under amalgamated into one. He accepted that he was looking at the referee when he shouted.

“He was then summoned over by the referee. He said that he said to the referee that the Exeter No2 could have broken his leg. When shown that part of the video he explained that he had said that after he had turned and moved away from the referee, been guided back, and turned to leave.

“He had been angry. He was shaking his head because he disagreed with the whole incident. He thought the foul play by the Exeter No2 was plain to see. It was a combination of features. The tackle was penalised on review with the TMO. On reflection, he is not proud of his reaction.

“The reason he was walking away was that he had made great strides in trying to be a better player. He has been guided by his sports psychologist to ‘flush it’, ‘forget about it’ and move on. He apologised to the referee a few minutes later, saying he was sorry for what he had said. The player did not seek to condone the use of the language he had used.

“He cares about the values of the game. He has a foundation through which he encourages other young people to play rugby. Rugby is the only thing he has got. His own background was not to play rugby and young people have been encouraged to play rugby because of him. A lot of kids look up to him and he is deeply embarrassed about what he did.”

In their findings of fact, the panel said: “The player was frank in the account he gave to the panel. His passion for rugby and his pride in his achievements was obvious. That passion was reflected in the establishment of the foundation to encourage others who have not played rugby to do so.”

Outlining their reasons for selecting the entry point that resulted in Sinckler getting suspended for two weeks, the panel explained: “Although it was a deliberate act of disrespect to the referee it was not premeditated. It immediately followed the player being subjected to an act of foul play.

“It was a short outburst although the player walked away when spoken to by the referee. The offence was committed in a high profile game that was being broadcast on television. It wasn’t an overheard muttered complaint, it was an aggressive offensive expression of dissent shouted directly at the referee.

“The conduct of the player warranted a red card. The entry point was consistent with the entry point for similar misconduct at lower levels of the game.”

  • The short form RFU disciplinary hearing judgment can be read in full (click here)


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