England: Kyle Sinckler reflects on the unconventional team meeting that won their 2019 semi-final against the All Blacks

England prop Kyle Sinckler at training. Credit: Alamy
England prop Kyle Sinckler at training. Credit: Alamy

England prop Kyle Sinckler reflected on an unconventional team meeting held by head coach Eddie Jones before arguably their best performance under the tactician.

Sinckler explained Jones used a samurai sword to cut a kiwi fruit to build belief that it is possible to beat New Zealand heading into their semi-final of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

England went on to win the clash 19-7 in a stunning performance where everything went the Red Rose’s way, booking their spot in the final that the side would go on to lose.

Complete belief

The Bristol man recalls strongly believing England would beat New Zealand after the unorthodox meeting.

“We played Australia in the quarter final in Oita – I scored a try – and then we had a team meeting on the Sunday which is very strange. Normally Sunday is a day off, we do recovery and you never really see Eddie,” Sinckler said.

“But he called a players’ meeting at 9am. Everyone was like ‘what’s happened here? Has anyone done anything!?’ And he set the tone for the week.

“I’ll never forget that meeting in terms of how we set the week up with our game plan – talking about putting pressure on them, going at them, walking towards the danger.

“It was a surreal experience as we had no doubt after that meeting we were going to win and it was the only game in my rugby career where everything went to plan.

“Literally everything Eddie said would happen, happened. Usually on a Sunday you wake up going ‘how am I going to do this again?’, but after that meeting I felt ‘we’ve got this’. It was so special.”

England opted to form a V-shape during the All Blacks haka to offer a response, and Sinckler knew it was crucial for his side to back it up on the field.

“How many times have we seen opponents walk towards the Haka and New Zealand put 50 points on them? We felt if we were going to do that we needed to back it up. We had better play well!”

Fundamentals

Sinckler admits that the All Blacks are far more than their flashy players and exciting style of play, as their fundamentals are almost always executed well.

“What’s interesting about them is that when people watch the All Blacks, they say ‘great play, loads of offloads, great running game with Reiko Ioane, Caleb Clarke, Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga’,” the Bristol tighthead said.

“They’re great ball in hand players, but they’re also unbelievably physical – really good scrum, great set-piece. Put your head in a breakdown and they’re absolutely clearing you out.

“That was the biggest surprise for me when I first played New Zealand – I thought ‘these guys are really physical’.

“If they need to play wide, they can. If they need to play through and use their set-piece, they can.

“That was a real eye-opener for me. They can do the flashy stuff but the nuts and bolts of their game are also very impressive.”

England face the All Blacks this weekend at Twickenham in their first meeting between the pair since the semi-final in 2019, which will undoubtedly be a fantastic Test match.

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