Revealed - Kyle Sinckler earns Lions call-up in surprise selection despite never starting for England
Kyle Sinckler, the 24-year-old Harlequins prop who is yet to start a Test match for England, will be named as one of the ‘bolters’ in the British and Irish Lions squad when it is announced on Wednesday, The Telegraph can reveal.
Sinckler, who has made eight appearances off the bench since making his debut for England in the victory over South Africa last November, is poised to be named as one of six props when Warren Gatland, the Lions head coach, unveils what is expected to be a 37-man squad for the 10-match tour of New Zealand.
Sinckler is expected to be named ahead of more experienced tighthead props including Scotland’s W P Nel, Zander Fagerson and Wales duo Tomas Francis and Samson Lee and could be one of three surprise selections.
Sinckler’s England team-mate Ben Te’o, who has made just one start in his eight caps on the international stage, is also understood to be in strong contention for one of the five midfield berths.
Te’o, who was born in New Zealand and played rugby league for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Samoa, qualifies for England via his mother and his strong ball-carrying made a significant impact off the bench as Eddie Jones’s side retained their Six Nations title.
Significantly, Steve Borthwick and Rob Howley, the Lions assistant coaches, were at Sixways on Saturday to see Te’o help inspire Worcester to a surprise victory over Bath.
It is understood that Ulster and Ireland lock Iain Henderson is likely to make the cut after his towering try-scoring display in the victory over England despite starting only one other game in the championship, the defeat by Scotland.
Gatland was in Cardiff on Saturday to see Blues defeat the Ospreys in the Pro 12 match at the Principality Stadium and all the indications are that Sam Warburton will be named captain for the second successive tour despite the knee injury that is expected to sideline him for up to six weeks.
Dylan Hartley, the England captain, will have one final chance to press his claims for a Lions place against what is expected to be his main rival for a place in the squad, his England team-mate Jamie George. The pair go head-to-head at Franklin’s Gardens on Sunday afternoon, with some sources suggesting that Hartley needs a big performance, with George, Ireland captain Rory Best and Wales hooker Ken Owens all pressing for the three hookers’ positions.
There will be no Lions representative at Stadium MK, however.
It is understood Gatland and his coaching team will meet up again on Tuesday afternoon for a final selection meeting although it is thought that the squad has already been selected.
The captain is expected to be told on Tuesday, as he will be unveiled at the squad announcement on Wednesday, but the rest of the squad will only find out about their selection when the names are read out on Sky Sports at the midday press conference.