Kyle Sinckler exorcises demons against Wales as England prop completes four-year journey to redemption
Kyle Sinckler sat on the stairs to the Principality Stadium exit on Saturday night, in quiet reflection on exorcising the demons that almost derailed his career.
Four years earlier, the England prop sat on the same set of stairs, crying his eyes out on the phone to his mum.
The Lions star made Saturday’s trip back to Cardiff very personal, after a humbling 2019 experience.
Warren Gatland branded Sinckler an emotional “time bomb” in the build-up to England’s Six Nations Cardiff clash four years ago.
Sinckler took the bait, grappling with the likes of Alun Wyn Jones before being replaced on 60 minutes due to a mounting penalty count against him.
England lost 21-13, Sinckler felt he had let everybody down, and left the Welsh capital at a crossroads: control those emotions or lose his way in the game he loves.
The 29-year-old’s try-scoring turn in Saturday’s 20-10 victory completed that four-year journey, on which he can now rightly say he took the correct path.
“This was a very pivotal moment not only in my career but in my life,” said Sinckler.
“Looking back on the experience I had in 2019 my career could have gone one of two ways.
“I’m not going to lie I had some demons coming back to the Principality.
“I know we played here in 2021 but that was during Covid, no fans, totally different experience.
“Walking back into the stadium yesterday, I remember sitting on those stairs in floods of tears on the phone to probably my mum.
“I know we were playing Wales today but for me it was a Test match between who I am today versus the person I was in 2019.
“I just wanted to do everyone proud, have that composure, put in a professional performance and just do my job for the team.”
Sinckler’s passion for helping young men take control of their mental health shone through again, as he explained his build-up to England’s win in Wales.
Crossing the Severn Bridge on Thursday afternoon, Sinckler’s mind was a maelstrom of conflicting thoughts.
“I’m very fortunate, I work with the organisation Saviour World, I speak to my mentor quite a lot, especially with what’s going on with mental health especially in men,” said Sinckler.
“I spoke to him about that in the week. As soon as we crossed the Severn Bridge I was like ‘what is going on?’ I could feel the emotions bubbling up inside.
“He gave me the awareness that this was a big game, but that it was also me versus me, and that I had to beat my old self. And I felt like I did that.”
Relieved to measure his progress in the ability to rise above on-field conflict, Sinckler admitted he needed to close the door on that pain from 2019.
“If we remember what 2019 was like I’d be right in the thick of it, with the fans and trying to fight,” said Sinckler.
“I was a totally different person. I had a lot of anger, a lot of resentment, probably towards a lot of people.
“I remember that was a really big week. Gatland said something that made headlines and that hurt, if I’m being honest.
“I felt targeted in that game. Four years on, I can truly say that was a blessing. But in the thick of it at the time it definitely didn’t feel like that.
“I needed to have this match otherwise I don’t think I could have moved on, but I didn’t realise that until I was actually in the experience.
“It was a really big Test match and credit to Wales. I know they’re getting a lot of stick at the moment, I know they’ve had a lot with their union, but they’re a tough side.
“That was one of the most physical Test matches I’ve played in a long time, credit to those boys.
“We’ve been in the situation they’re in where things just aren’t clicking. But they’re a quality side and I’m sure they’ll be back to where they’re supposed to be.”