British and Irish Lions 2017: Kyle Sinckler reveals how Adam Jones and James Horwill curbed his anger problem

The 19-stone prop needed to be pulled to one side after a game against Wasps last season to be told by his veteran teammates that it wasn't all about him

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The Independent Online

Kyle Sinckler will make his second start on the British and Irish Lions tour against the Highlanders on Tuesday, but had it not been for a career-changing moment last season, he may not have been here in New Zealand at all.

The 24-year-old Harlequins prop had developed a reputation for heading for an early bath during the early years of his career, to the point that he was sent-off in the exact game that he was scouted by the Premiership club’s academy.

Having spent his early childhood years playing football where he repeatedly received red cards for his behaviour that carried over into the start of his rugby career that stemmed from his mother’s friend talking her into sending him down to the local rugby club – complete in full Manchester United kit – Sinckler found himself breaking into the Quins side and developing something of an unwanted reputation.

Lions video diary, Day 12

It took the intervention last season of Adam Jones and James Horwill, Harlequins’ two elder statesmen, to pull him aside after one particular incident during the 42-10 defeat at Wasps.

“The one thing I’ve never touched on is we played Wasps away last year and I came on at half-time for Adam Jones and I was fuming that we were playing so badly and I could’ve probably been sent off about two or three times in that game,” relived Sinckler.

“James Horwill and Adam Jones sat me down and took it upon themselves to tell me on that Monday after ‘look you’ve got to stop it because it’s all about you’. That’s how it comes across, it’s all about me, and it’s always me starting the fights and costing the team, and it’s bigger than yourself so I need to sit back and think if Adam Jones – 95 caps for Wales – and James Horwill – 60-70 caps, Australia captain, led them to a World Cup in New Zealand – those guys have gone out of their way to speak to me and they didn’t have to and they just said you’ve got a lot of talent but if you don’t sort your image out and sort yourself out.”

On Tuesday, eight-cap Sinckler, who is yet to make his first start for England, will run out alongside Ireland captain Rory Best for the third time on this tour, having partnered the hooker in the opening match against the Provincial Barbarians as well as coming on as a replacement in the defeat by the Blues.

The tighthead prop has been determined to tap into the knowledge and experience of Best as well as the likes of Alun Wyn Jones, and it’s these veteran figures as well as Adam Jones and Horwill who have helped develop Sinckler’s character into the refined baby-faced assassin he is today.

“I’m just grateful those guys were happy to talk to me because that flicked a switch  there and then and I was lucky enough to go on tour to Australia with England that summer,” Sinckler added. “Always having Joe [Marler] tell me on the pitch – as you guys in the English media usually see –having a go at me and telling me to shut up and stuff, It’s an ongoing process for me.

“I want to be physical, I want to play on the edge and in people’s faces but in the right way, and not to the detriment of the team. That conversation with James Horwill and Adam Jones put things in perspective for me.”

The 19-stone front-row tank is the first to credit those who have helped him along the way, developing a humble side that completely contradicts the aggressive manner in which he carries himself on the pitch.

Sinckler has had to learn to channel his aggression into the right avenues (Getty)

“We're quite lucky at Quins we have a great psychologist in Peter Kruger, who works with South Africa, worked with the Lions before they went on their run and went to the final last year,” he said.

I'm still growing, still becoming a man, learning from my mistakes

Kyle Sinckler

“And at England we've got Jeremy Snape as well. After that conversation I've sat down with them and spoken to them. It's a part of maturing as well.

“I'm still growing, still becoming a man, learning from my mistakes. Hopefully I just keep learning and the biggest thing is just the team, you've got to put yourself before the team. You've got to look at yourself in the mirror and say there's no point in doing that stuff, because it's to the detriment of the team.”

The Lions will hope for Sinckler to be the best of both against the Highlanders, playing on the edge of his aggression levels while keeping himself in check in order not to allow his emotions to boil over. Do that, as well as see off the Highlanders, and Sinckler might just put himself into the Lions Test mix.