Chal­lenge of Sinck­ler is bring­ing best out of Cole

The Rugby Paper - - News - ■ By NEALE HAR­VEY

ENG­LAND stal­wart Dan Cole reck­ons the sound of thun­der­ing heels from young tight­head pre­tender Kyle Sinck­ler will en­sure he never drops his guard in the quest for im­prove­ment.

Cole has de­fi­antly oc­cu­pied Eng­land’s No.3 jersey since his de­but against Wales in 2010, con­stantly up­grad­ing his skills in an ever-evolv­ing game in which a prop’s abil­ity to carry, pass and de­fend is as val­ued as his mas­tery of the dark scrum arts.

Sinck­ler’s sheer ath­leti­cism means Cole, 29, is hav­ing to adapt, but it is a chal­lenge he em­braces as he looks to ce­ment his rep­u­ta­tion as one of the world’s lead­ing tight-heads – a sta­tus that should be re­in­forced this Wed­nes­day when he is selected for a sec­ond tour of Lions duty.

Cole, who has bounced back bril­liantly from the crush­ing dis­ap­point­ment of Eng­land’s World Cup fail­ure in 2015, told The Rugby

Pa­per: “I’ve been pleased with my form in the Six Na­tions and the au­tumn, but the chal­lenge is to get bet­ter.

“Com­ing through the Le­ices­ter ranks means com­pe­ti­tion is some­thing that drives you. I was up against Ju­lian White and Martin Cas­tro­gio­vanni so it’s noth­ing new to me and look­ing at the way Kyle Sinck­ler,

be­low, is play­ing is bring­ing out the best in me.

“Sincks has grown from just be­ing a pow­er­ful ball­car­rier to a point now where his whole game and game un­der­stand­ing has grown. The Eng­land coaches, and Gra­ham Rown­tree at Har­lequins, have challenged him to do things much bet­ter and, credit to him, he’s done ex­actly that.

“You saw the im­pact he made when he came on dur­ing the Six Na­tions and it’s great for Eng­land that we have that strength in depth at tight­head. With other guys like Paul Hill com­ing through it means I have to im­prove, but, be­lieve me, there’s a lot more to come from Dan Cole.” This year’s Six Na­tions was ac­knowl­edged as one of the most at­tack-minded ever, which re­flects the chang­ing face of North­ern Hemi­sphere rugby in which this sea­son’s Aviva Premier­ship matches av­er­aged 5.39 tries. Ex­plain­ing how he has adapted his game, Cole said: “Ev­ery year you learn more and more new things and there are ar­eas of my game, like ball-car­ry­ing and set-piece skills, that I con­stantly seek to im­prove. De­fence is huge for props and if you can’t im­prove it you won’t get picked. “You watch your­self in games two or three years ago and think how slow and crap you were in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions, so you never rest. You look at the game now com­pared to what it was three years ago and teams are go­ing all out to get more try bonuses.

“We don’t play on bogs any­more, the old-fash­ioned scrum-fests have dis­ap­peared and most games now are high scor­ing. It shows the qual­ity of player in the Premier­ship now.”

Hav­ing tasted Lions suc­cess in Aus­tralia four years ago, Cole is des­per­ate for a crack at New Zealand. And he is de­lighted that his old coach­ing men­tor Rown­tree will be head­ing Down Un­der as well.

Cole said: “Go­ing to New Zealand would be mas­sive for me and a great hon­our. I’ve played in World Cups and won three Six Na­tions’ ti­tles and a Grand Slam, but it’s one of those tours that’s the pin­na­cle of your ca­reer and you as­pire to be among the best play­ers.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be on one win­ning tour, so to go through all that again, es­pe­cially in New Zealand, is some­thing I’d love to ex­pe­ri­ence.”

He added: “I’m pleased for Gra­ham Rown­tree. I know how cut up he was af­ter the World Cup so it’s great to see him bounce back be­cause he’s a proven, qual­ity coach.

“We were all dis­ap­pointed with the World Cup and that’ll al­ways be with you, but I don’t go to bed wor­ry­ing about World Cups. The main fo­cus is on putting it right, which we’ll get our chance to do in 2019.”

Club mat­ters dom­i­nate for now and Cole was sad­dened by the en­forced re­tire­ment of his long-serv­ing Le­ices­ter loose­head col­league, Mar­cos Ay­erza, due to a back in­jury.

Cole said: “Mar­cos is one of the best over­seas play­ers the Premier­ship has seen and as a young tight­head, I learned so much train­ing and play­ing along­side him in Le­ices­ter’s front row.

“You build great friend­ships and he’ll be missed, but El­lis Genge’s game is com­ing on in­cred­i­bly. He was signed on a bit of a flyer from Bris­tol but his ball-car­ry­ing abil­ity, get­ting capped by Eng­land last year and the fact he’s in the wider Eng­land squad again now says a lot about him.”

While Genge still has ques­tions to an­swer over his tem­per­a­ment, Cole be­lieves the Bris­to­lian is ready to step up for Eng­land on June’s de­mand­ing tour of Ar­gentina.

“Since com­ing to Le­ices­ter he’s grown up as a per­son and that’s trans­lated into his rugby,” Cole added. “Be­ing ex­posed to Eng­land, Ed­die Jones and Le­ices­ter coaches like Richard Cock­er­ill, Aaron Mauger and now Matt O’Con­nor means he’s re­al­is­ing he can be an in­ter­na­tional player.

“Set-piece is one of his work-ons and Ar­gentina pride them­selves there, so you find out a lot about peo­ple and I’m sure he’ll im­prove go­ing there.”

PIC­TURE: Getty Images

Eng­land stal­wart: Dan Cole driv­ing the ball into the Scot­tish de­fence

Young ri­val: Kyle Sinck­ler

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