OITA, 20 Oct - Kyle Sinckler has transformed himself from a prop with a suspect temperament into a role model for young players and England are reaping the benefit as they prepare for their last-four clash with New Zealand.
Sinckler scored an outstanding individual try as Eddie Jones's side defeated Australia 40-16 on Saturday to set up a first World Cup semi-final in 12 years, against the defending champions in Yokohoma on Saturday.
Sinckler's debut test try was witnessed in Oita by his mother Donna, who took him to his first rugby club at the age of eight to try to use up some of the youngster’s energy.
In February, when England lost to Wales in the Six Nations, Welsh coach Warren Gatland called him an "emotional timebomb" having worked with the prop on the British and Irish Lions squad in the drawn series with New Zealand in 2017.
However, those wild days are, according to Sinckler, over, thanks to the work he has been doing with a specialist to discover why he has felt so angry and short tempered, particularly when wound up in a match.
"My mum came out so she was happy (to see the try). I saw her in the crowd and she was pretty emotional," said Sinckler, who grew up in south London.
"It's been a long, long journey for me so it's good to see my mum out here and I've done her proud. I have really tried to own my discipline, just being cool in the moment. I think it just comes with experience.
"I've been working really hard with someone to address those things off the field that happened in my childhood. Once I got a better understanding about that sort of stuff, I’ve had no frustrations. I can just go out and play and try to be a role model for a lot of people back home.
"It’s all about belief. A lot of people when I was growing up said I couldn’t do a lot of things, I wouldn’t amount to anything. I’m just lucky I had a good family around me, a good group of friends who supported me and never really allowed me to get in trouble and steered me in the right direction."
Well played.— Mark Poulson 🕷 (@poulsm90) October 19, 2019
Best photo of the day pic.twitter.com/ssxl2juOpr
Becoming a key player in one of the world's top rugby teams means Sinckler wants to show youngsters the right path to take - something he takes seriously.
"I want to set a good example and show what being a man is," he said. "Being a man isn’t losing your rag and your emotions, and showing the opposition how you really feel. It’s about being calm, being disciplined, putting the team first and doing your job. And not allowing your ego to take control.
"My aim is to try and inspire the next generation like the 2003 lot did. I remember watching them, watching Jonny Wilkinson kicking that drop goal, and that made me want to play rugby. I wanted to be on that stage and I think we’ve got a massive responsibility to the grassroots."
Sinckler’s transformation has been watched closely by Joe Marler, his England and Harlequins team-mate, who paid tribute to the work the 26-year-old has done to change his attitude on the pitch.
"I thought he really came of age today," said Marler. "It was a big defining moment for him. There have been in the past question marks about his emotional energy, which is what he thrives on.
"He admitted himself during the Six Nations that he wasn't able to control that, but now he is able to control that, and fully play on that edge.
"I talk to him as much as I can, just try to help him out. He's a good kid with a heart of gold who loves the game."
England coach Eddie Jones also paid tribute to the player he calls a baby rhino. "He scrummed really well, we are happy with that," said Jones.
"He found himself in an advanced attacking position (for his try) and got a great pass from Owen (Farrell) and then he was a runaway rhino. I’m really impressed by how hard he is working at improving his game."