The Daily Telegraph - Business

Sinckler says Lions reprieve is a ‘massive shock’ after giving up any hope of going to South Africa

- By Ben Coles

Kyle Sinckler described his call-up to the British and Irish Lions squad as “a massive shock”.

Sinckler, the Bristol Bears and England prop, has replaced injured

Irishman Andrew Porter, after not being originally selected for the 37-man squad last month.

“For me to be included now has been a massive shock, I’m not going to lie,” Sinckler said. “In my head, I processed [not going to South Africa]. As an athlete, you can’t hold on to things. I can’t hold on to, ‘I might get a call-up, someone might get injured’. I couldn’t play some good rugby if in the back of my mind I’m thinking, ‘I might get on the Lions tour’. I have to fully throw myself at the next thing.”

Sinckler is now one of three tightheads heading to South Africa, alongside Tadhg Furlong, of Ireland, and Scotland’s Zander Fagerson. He missed Saturday’s win over Leicester with what he described as a “tiny tweak” – the club’s physios opted to hold him back ahead of the Premiershi­p play-offs – and was on his way to the sauna at the club’s training ground on Sunday when a number he did not recognise appeared on his phone.

“I was like, ‘Oh, all right, Gats!’ We had a chat. It was around 8am. It definitely took me by surprise because I’d just rolled out of bed,” Sinckler said. “I told him about my disappoint­ment of not being involved in the initial squad and, on reflection, how grateful I was to go on the 2017 tour. How special it was for me to be involved with that and

how, fingers crossed, I want to come in and contribute to whatever the team needs. I’m raring to go.”

Sinckler also addressed his emotional post-match interview after being named man of the match for Bristol against Bath a few days after his omission from the original Lions squad, for which he was widely praised. “Something I’ve been working on is just being authentic and being myself, because in the modern day we all struggle to be ourselves. If I’m being honest, we all care a lot about caring what other people think about us,” he explained. “I was so upset that I said, ‘I’m just going to be myself ’. I was absolutely gutted, and I just tried to harness that disappoint­ment, anger and all the emotions I had inside me.

“I tried to just put it towards my rugby in my last couple of performanc­es for Bristol.”

The England tighthead’s phone was flooded with messages congratula­ting him on Sunday, including from Adam Jones, Sinckler’s former coach at Harlequins who played for the Lions against South Africa in the series 12 years ago.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without him, my whole game, and the simple stuff I probably struggled with before he came into my life – I owe a lot to him,” Sinckler said of Jones. “He taught me everything in terms of scrummagin­g, rucking. I was just a leech and wanted to learn everything from him, be a sponge.”

The 28-year-old prop, who won three Test caps for the Lions in New

Zealand four years ago, shortly after making his Test debut for England, also recalled emotionall­y watching the 2009 series against South Africa and the Lions’ dramatic defeat in the second Test.

“It is special isn’t it. I remember watching 2009 as a kid when they last toured South Africa, and I was just glued to the Tests and what happened. When Morne Steyn kicked the penalty over, I was devastated, I was crying and that kind of spurred me on,” Sinckler recalled.

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