Watching her son Kyle steamroller through flailing Australians like a ‘runaway rhino’ to score a vital Rugby World Cup try for England on Saturday, Donna Sinckler could justifiably feel huge satisfaction.
It was she who raised him on a tough South London estate, shielding him from the gang violence that ensnared many of his friends and ferrying him to and from training despite working 12-hour shifts as a police call operator.
Her son’s stunning performance in Japan – which she saw from the stands – helped England vanquish old rivals Australia 40-16, setting the stage for a semi-final clash with the mighty All Blacks of New Zealand.
If the squad has come a long way since embarrassingly crashing out of the last World Cup – hosted by England – in the pool stages, then Kyle has come further still. The 19st prop forward’s first international try exemplified the team’s spirited victory.
Kyle Sinckler breaks clear to score England’s third try during Rugby World Cup 2019 Quarter Final match between England and Australia
Sinckler holds off Australian player Kurtley Beale as he touches down to score his team’s third try
A young Sinckler pictured with his mother, Donna Sinckler in an old family photo. Of the mother who raised him singlehandedly, he said: ‘I saw her in the crowd. She was pretty emotional. It’s been a long, long journey for me and her’
Ball clamped to his side, determination etched on his face, the 26-year-old powered over the line. Afterwards, he lay on the ball, arms outstretched in celebration. ‘It was very special,’ he said later.
And of the mother who raised him singlehandedly, he said: ‘I saw her in the crowd. She was pretty emotional. It’s been a long, long journey for me and her.’
Much of the credit for England’s success has gone to coach Eddie Jones – who admiringly likened Kyle to a runaway rhino, but as his star player observed: ‘You think Eddie’s a tough taskmaster? Mama Sinckler, mate. I tell you, she put me in my place.’
Profiles of Kyle frequently suggest he could easily have fallen into a life of crime. The truth is that Donna – who Kyle says ‘made me the person I am today’ – would have never let it happen.
Of his background, Kyle once said: ‘On the estate there was that sort of [gang-related] environment.
‘But those guys respected me because they knew I was trying to be the best I could be with rugby and I just let them get on with whatever they were doing. My mum always taught me to stay clear of trouble and surround myself with positive people.
‘I worked hard, found a love for rugby and did my schoolwork to keep mum happy.’
Sinckler celebrates after scoring a try during the Rugby World Cup quarter-final match
Sinckler as an 8-year-old boy playing for Battersea Ironsides
In a recent magazine article he spoke of ‘one guy from school… and only the other day he died. He opened his front door, got shot in the face. It’s just crazy. If you surround yourself with the wrong kind of people, you can go down a very bad path.’
Kyle’s quarter-final try in Japan followed a brace from winger Jonny May, who had been given the honour of leading England out at the Oita Stadium to mark his 50th international cap.
Anthony Watson added a fourth try, with captain Owen Farrell kicking 20 points.
Earlier, Kyle, who has a reputation for having a short fuse, resisted Australian efforts to bait him. After conceding an early penalty, he turned away when Australia’s Tolu Latu patted him on the head.
‘That’s something I’ve really tried to own… my discipline and just being cool in the moment,’ said Kyle afterwards.
About 20,000 white-shirted England fans descended on the southern Japanese city of Oita in the hope of seeing their team extract revenge for the defeat to Australia four years ago that dumped them out of the tournament on home ground. This time round, a rousing rendition of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, heralded celebrations in bars and ramen shops.
The 24-point margin of victory – England’s biggest in a World Cup knockout game – raised hopes of a famous victory next Saturday, although the All Blacks looked ominous during their 46-14 thrashing of Ireland.