Tuesday 16 January 2018

'Sponge' Sinckler revelling in 'rugby heaven' as he badgers Best for more knowledge

Sinckler (left)
Sinckler (left)
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Kyle Sinckler made the most of his week rooming with Rory Best.

A self-confessed 'rugby nause', he is fascinated by the campaigns he grew up watching during the 2000s, and having up close and personal access to a man who lived it, the Harlequins tighthead made the most of the opportunity.

"I'm always asking questions," he said after being selected to play alongside the Ireland captain in tomorrow's opening fixture against the Provincial Barbarians.

"I'm pretty sure Rory Best is tired of hearing my voice. He shared a room with me for two or three days and I'm always asking him: 'what was Marcus Horan like?', 'what was John Hayes like?' 'Jerry Flannery, what was he like?' 'Eddie O'Sullivan, what was he like?'

"I just want to learn, 'what was Paul O'Connell like?', etc.

"He's just there looking at me like, 'really? - it's 12.0 at night and we've got to get up in a few hours and you're asking me about the 2007 Six Nations'...

"I'm always trying to learn; I'd be a bit of a fool if I didn't ask these guys questions, watch them and hang around them, to see how they work day in, day out.

"This is a once in a life-time opportunity, isn't it?

"For me to be here, to be with all of these great players... they're not just good players, they're world class and probably some of the greatest players ever… if I can't try and be a sponge and learn off them, then I'd be a bit naive and a bit stupid."

Sinckler is battling with old underage foe Tadhg Furlong and experienced England team-mate Dan Cole for the No 3 jersey.

The Harlequins prop has yet to start for England, but has been making a real impact off the bench for Eddie Jones' side.

"Tadhg Furlong is a good guy. We've played against each other for our age groups," he said.

"If you look at how he's developed in the last 12 months… he's probably been the form tighthead. It's good to be around him.

"He's a good boy. We get on. We're always having a laugh, a bit of a jolly; kicking competitions too - I don't think Coley is too interested in that. We're probably a bit similar."

Sinckler's party piece is his ability to recite the Lions speeches he's watched on YouTube, citing Jim Telfer's 'Everest' speech, Paul O'Connell's address to the troops four years ago and Phil Vickery's 2009 effort as part of his repertoire.

He's spoken of his dramatic reaction to the 2009 series loss in Pretoria, when his mother found him crying on the kitchen floor.

Despite his youth, he gets the Lions concept, and now he gets to wear the famous red shirt.

"I'm just excited to go out there, play rugby and hit people for a living," he said.

"I don't need to get excited to play rugby. I can't wait to get out there to train this afternoon. I don't need a massive rev up. I'm ready to go.

"Warren (Gatland) is quite good. He lets the players be themselves. I've tried to be myself, to get to know the boys, and the banter is definitely flowing.

"It's good that there's a game on Saturday and we can put all our hard work out there to play rugby. It's good to see where you are as a team, get a good result, get the win and get the momentum to build for the guys who get to put on the jersey next week.

"I'm in bit of rugby heaven at the moment. I've got Rory Best next to me who has 104 caps, I've got Alun-Wyn Jones who, I think, has 102, Joe Marler, regarded as one of the best looseheads in the world, Sam Warburton, (Taulupe) Faletau…

"I'm just trying to learn off these guys and see what works and what doesn't. I am just taking it all in and try and learn because these guys have 100-odd, 70-odd caps for a reason and that's where I want to be, so there's no greater place for me to be at the moment than learning off these world-class players.

"Look at the starting team and it's quite a lot of the boys who were in training from the first week, so we've got that connection and we've been with each other for a while now.

"It's nice but I can't get too carried away; I've just got to do my job and try to put my best performance out there at the weekend."

Irish Independent

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