Kyle Sinckler insists that by confronting his troubled childhood he has been able to channel the fiery temperament he claims cost England a Grand Slam earlier this year.
World Cup quarter-final victims Australia sought to exploit what they viewed as a chink in Sinckler’s armour through a series of wind-ups, the most conspicuous of which was hooker Silatolu Latu patting him on the head after a scrum had broken up.
The plan backfired as Sinckler was among the stars of a stunning 40-16 victory at Oita Stadium on Saturday. A beautifully taken try that displayed his athleticism and a key steal in the tackle contributed to his finest hour in a Red Rose jersey.
It was a different story in Cardiff eight months ago, however, when his fuse threatened to blow amid provocation from Wales as he conceded two costly penalties to compel Eddie Jones to replace in him the 57th minute.
Up until that 21-13 defeat a player described as a “bit of an emotional time-bomb” by Warren Gatland was magnificent and it has since emerged as a pivotal moment in the 26-year-old’s career.
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“The Wales game taught me a lot. I let the team down, I let my country down. If we had won that game we would have been Grand Slam champions,” Sinckler said. “I had to look within and work on that side of my game, so I’ve been working with a guy called Ollie Pryce-Tidd, he works for Saviour World.
“I feel like, for me, I’ve always been quite a frustrated guy. Rugby is my canvas. I’ve always expressed myself through it, like my outlet. So I’ve had to deal with a lot of things I was probably frustrated about in my life, things that happened in my childhood.
“My frustrations were nothing rugby-related. I was born in a single-parent home and I was always looking for that male father figure. Subconsciously, I put people in that position, put my trust in certain people who betrayed me, really. It was just about me taking control of my life and teaching me how to be an actual man.
“A man is in control of his emotions, a man looks after his family, he does the right things. He doesn’t let anything that frustrates him show, he just gets on with it. That is something I’ve really tried to work on because I know my behaviour in the past has cost the team and I didn’t want to feel like that again.”
When asked about Latu’s attempt to get under his skin, Sinckler’s reply was grounded in the context of his upbringing on a tough south London estate by his mum Donna, who was present at Oita Stadium. “I feel so focused on doing my job that I didn’t even really notice it, whereas six months ago that would really have riled me up,” the Lions tighthead said.
“I feel like I’ve got a real big responsibility for the team, and not only the team, the people watching back home, especially people where I come from. It’s something you need to show – that anything can happen, it’s all about belief. A lot of people, when I was growing up, said I couldn’t do a lot of things, that I wouldn’t amount to anything.
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“I was lucky to have a good family around me, a good group of friends who supported me and never really allowed me to get in trouble and steered me in the right direction. They were good role models. Look at the stuff that’s happening around London with the knife crime. It’s just because kids are bored, sitting around.
“When I was a kid I had training, I was playing football, rugby, cricket, I was doing kickboxing, karate, I didn’t have time to think about doing something bad. At the moment kids are sitting around and they want that adrenaline rush. They need to fall in love with some kind of sport, some kind of activity. Where I’m from there’s a big onus on me to set a good example and show what being a man is.”
– Press Association
WATCH: Eddie Jones’ media conference following England’s victory over Australia
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