England prop Kyle Sinckler reveals how chest injury threatened to crush his World Cup dream – four years after being knocked out in final defeat by South Africa

Kyle Sinckler has revealed his sense of relief and appreciation for the chance of another World Cup shot with England, after suffering an injury scare days before the departure for France.

The 30-year-old prop was knocked out of the 2019 final in the opening minutes as England were smashed into submission by South Africa.

Almost four years on, there was a fleeting danger Sinckler wouldn’t even make it to the tournament, but the Bristol tighthead convinced head coach Steve Borthwick he could overcome an untimely chest problem and has been true to his word.

After playing a limited role in England’s warm-up campaign last month, Sinckler was a spectator as Dan Cole started in the No 3 shirt and Will Stuart came off the bench in the opening win over Argentina.

Scrum coach Tom Harrison admitted that, as well as the fitness battle, the man who was a fixture in the front row during Eddie Jones’ tenure had been under orders to improve his set-piece work in order to regain his lost status. But the tide has turned for the two-tour Lion, who has since started the games against Japan and Chile.

Kyle Sinckler had to convince England boss Steve Borthwick to take him to the World Cup

The England prop was knocked out in the opening minutes of the 2019 World Cup final

The England prop was knocked out in the opening minutes of the 2019 World Cup final

Following Saturday’s 71-0 rout of the South Americans in Lille, which left Borthwick’s side with a perfect three-from-three record and on the brink of qualifying as winners of Pool D, Sinckler explained the pre-World Cup setback he came through.

‘For me, it is a massive amount of gratitude to be back out there,’ he said. ‘Before the Fiji game, I pulled up with a pectoral tear, which was really touch and go.

‘But I was keen to play last week against Japan and to get the start here was pretty cool. It was the last week in August when I got injured. The scan came back and didn’t look great, but I knew it would be fine. Fair play to the medical staff and Steve for trusting me to say: “I know my body, I’m going to be fine”.

‘I have been on recovery 24/7 since that game so I am very grateful to be here, at my second World Cup, in my 13th year as a professional.’

Sinckler has been grafting behind the scenes on the staples of his game. ‘The only way to get better at scrummaging is by scrummaging and in pre-season, I have never hit so many scrums in my life,’ he said. ‘It was really, really tough, but that hard work we put in hopefully is starting to pay dividends now.’

Asked how his repertoire has expanded over time, Sinckler added: ‘The only thing that isn’t expected from me is to kick and take high balls!

‘The role has changed since I first came on the scene, and the way I played tighthead prop, a lot of people said, “You can’t do it that way”; ball-carrying, tips, chasing. 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, make 10 tackles, get two or three scrum penalties, be strong in the kick-chase, hit the rucks”, so the standard is high, and that is what I expect.’

There is no scope for complacency, personally or collectively. Cole and Stuart will keep Sinckler on his toes at a time when England’s tighthead hierarchy is not quite as clear as it once was.

‘You should never take your position in the team for granted and you should be humble enough to understand that sometimes your role can change,’ he said.

The team challenge is to ward off any complacency ahead of the final pool fixture, against Samoa in Lille a week on Saturday.

‘We are focused on Samoa,’ said. Sinckler. ‘They’re no mugs. They’re bloody physical. I watched the Argentina game and they got a yellow card after 40 seconds, so those guys will be fired up!

The 30-year-old has started the last two games against Japan and Chile at the World Cup

The 30-year-old has started the last two games against Japan and Chile at the World Cup

‘You can never take it for granted. If you look too far ahead, you don’t respect your next opponent and you are going to be in serious trouble. For us, there are enough experienced guys in the room. We know the gig, we know what’s expected and all the focus is on Samoa. It’s definitely an acid test.

‘One thing I’ve been impressed with is their set-piece work. Especially in the first half 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.’

There will be some friendly fire awaiting Sinckler on his next outing, with some Bears in the rival camp.

‘Steve Luatua and Chris Vui — I know those boys will be going hard and we will be going hard,’ he said of his Bristol team-mates. ‘But after the whistle, we have a handshake and a hug. They are my brothers and there are no hard feelings.’

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