Kyle Sinckler revealed England coaches thought it was “touch and go” whether the tighthead prop would make the World Cup after suffering a pectoral injury in August.
Sinckler was limited to three appearances off the bench in the warm-up matches and was not involved in England’s matchday squad for their opening Pool D victory against Argentina. Yet the 30-year-old has since started back-to-back games against Japan and Chile.
While Sinckler, whose meticulous preparations have been labelled “crazy” by wing Jonny May, believed that he would always make it, that confidence was not shared by all of England’s backroom team when he suffered the injury leading into the final warm-up game against Fiji on August 26.
“The scan came back and it didn’t look great but I knew it would be fine,” Sinckler said. “Fair play to the medical staff, and Steve for trusting me and to say ‘I know my body, I am going to be fine’. And honestly thank you to my team I have that work for me off the field. They have really stepped up and helped me and I have been on recovery 24/7 since that game so I am just very grateful to be here and hopefully get to do my thing again.
“To be honest I am just so grateful to be back, to be playing. This was really touch and go, I am just grateful to be here, second World Cup, 13th year playing professional rugby so I am just very grateful for the opportunity.”
As Telegraph Sport previously reported, Sinckler’s ball-carrying dropped off significantly since the last World Cup as he previously battled a back injury while his move to Bristol put an emphasis on his tip passes. Yet since Steve Borthwick took over as head coach and subsequently brought in Tom Harrison came in as scrum coach, Sinckler has been told that he will need to be a jack of all trades and a master of scrummaging.
“I think the only thing that is not expected from me is to kick and take high balls,” Sinckler said. “I think the role has changed since I first came on the scene, and the way I played tight-head prop, a lot of people said ‘you can’t do it that way’, ball carrying, tips, chasing and I had to really work hard on my scrummaging because that didn’t come naturally. Now it is we want you to make 10 carries, we want you to make 10 tackles, we want you to get two or three scrum penalties, we want you to be strong in the kick chase, we want you to hit the rucks so the standard is high, and that is what I expect.
“The only way to get better at scrummaging is by scrummaging and in the pre-season, I have never hit so many scrums in my life. Genuinely it was tough, it was really, really tough but that hard work we put in, in the pre-season, hopefully is starting to pay dividends now. I know the perception would be, it is Chile but they are a good side. They went toe to toe with Japan, they went toe to toe with Samoa and they are an up and coming nations. Obviously, they beat USA who are no mugs and they were tough out there.”
As club teammates of Chris Vui and Steven Luatua at Bristol, Sinckler knows how much of a challenge that England will be facing in their final pool match against Samoa on October 7. While a lot of eyes are moving towards a potential quarter-final against Fiji, Sinckler warned that they will not take Samoa lightly, not least because of their power in the tackle.
“From my experiences playing with England, you have always got to have your feet firmly on the ground,” Sinckler said. “We are focussed on Samoa, because they are no mugs, they are bloody physical. I watched the Argentina game and they got a yellow card after 40 seconds so those guys will be fired up. You can never take it for granted, if you look too far ahead then you never respect your next opponent and you are going to be in serious trouble.
“One thing I have been impressed with by Samoa is their set piece work. If you look, especially in the first half against Argentina on Friday, those guys really took Argentina on in the scrum and Argentina are a very, very good scrum so up front we are going to have to be on our Ps and Qs.