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The message Sinckler has given to rare England starter Will Stuart

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

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Rare England starter Will Stuart has revealed the message he has got from fellow tighthead Kyle Sinckler ahead of this Sunday’s Guinness Six Nations match in Rome. The 25-year-old Bath front-rower has started just twice in his 16-cap Test career, but he has now been handed a third start after getting the jump on the benched Sinckler in an XV showing six changes following last weekend’s loss to Scotland.   

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It was Wednesday, two days before the England team was officially named, when loosehead Joe Marler explained how Sinckler and Ellis Genge were leading the charge in lifting spirits following the setback at Murrayfield. 

And now, with Sinckler held in reserve for the Italian job, Stuart has explained what his rival for the No3 jersey has had to say to him in advance of the Stadio Olimpico match. Just encouragement, just encouragement, just go out and smash it,” he said on Saturday from Rome. 

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“Kyle has always been massively supportive and really good for me here. He has been on two Lions tours, is a really experienced player and has started for England I don’t know how many times. Ever since coming in, he has been really good for my development. 

“From the outside, you probably look at people in the same positions, obviously there is a competitive element but genuinely not the big shock but the big thing I took coming into this environment is everyone is trying to get everyone better and bring everyone up – and that has definitely been my experience with Kyle and with the team.

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“Definitely coming in here first I was pretty nervous with a lot more solidified players who had been around each other for a long time, but everyone makes a big effort to integrate everyone and there is a lot more new faces from the summer to now. A lot of guys I have played with at U20s, age-group stuff, that I have known for a long time as well. As a group, it feels really tight-knit and it’s exciting.” 

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It was after Eddie Jones moved on from Dan Cole post the 2019 World Cup final that Stuart came on the England scene, making a Test debut off the bench in the 2020 Six Nations game away to France. He has gone on to become a regular in the matchday 23 and this Sunday will be his 17th appearance in the 21 matches that England have had since that lost final to the Springboks in Yokohama.   

The pandemic restrictions haven’t made that emergence straightforward. Neither has the fact that England have now lost three consecutive round one opening matches in the Six Nations. However, having bounced back to win the title in 2020, Stuart is hoping for a similar reaction rather than a repeat of last year’s struggle which ended in a fifth-place finish.     

“Two years ago we lost the first game and it was my first game for England… we just have got to out and win every game, same as usual. Last year that Six Nations didn’t end up as well as the year before. There were mitigating circumstances around the covid bubble and it was quite hard to manoeuvre around. That had a bit of a factor and then just general team togetherness. This time there is a bit more freedom, more ability to get close as a squad.”

Reflecting on what was lacking in the loss to Scotland, where he featured off the bench in the denouement where England went from leading 17-10 to losing the match 20-17, Stuart said: “Just a little bit of discipline after the yellow card. After the penalty try the score was still a draw so it is about not compounding errors, just staying focused on the task and not going out of the system.”

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And about Sunday and being part of a changed-up XV that also includes Alex Dombrandt starting at No8, the tighthead added: “Everyone knows Alex has been smashing up the Prem last few years, especially lining up with Marcus (Smith). It has been a nightmare for opposition defences. I have been on the receiving end of it a couple of times at Bath, so it’s exciting to play with him.”  

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