Kyle Sinckler insists his combustible reputation is undeserved but has vowed to continue bringing a combative edge to England’s front row.
Sinckler will be at the forefront of the mission to land a critical blow in the Guinness Six Nations title race by extending Eddie Jones’ winning record over Wales to five Tests when the rivals clash in Cardiff on February 23.
The Harlequins prop’s power in the loose and improving set-piece work have elevated him to the status of England’s first-choice tighthead, but he disputes his image of a volatile agitator.
“Whatever is said, I’m always in control and I always know what I’m doing. I’m never out of control,” Sinckler said.
“I have to make sure I’m in control and I don’t let the emotions get the better of me, but at the same time if you are part of the front row and playing in the forward pack it is always going to be a fine line.”
One moment in the 44-8 victory over France that could be viewed as evidence to support Sinckler’s notoriety is given a different perspective when explained by the 25-year-old Londoner.
Upon slapping France forward Arthur Iturria on the top of the head early in the second half at Twickenham, referee Nigel Owens awarded a penalty against Sinckler and issued a reminder of “rugby’s values”.
“I was a bit frustrated about the whole incident, if I’m being honest,” Sinckler said.
“I don’t condone what I did, but they didn’t show the full replay of what actually conspired. I didn’t just smack him on the head. There was stuff that happened before.
“I don’t want to dwell on that. The big learn on for me is that I’d done my job in terms of counter-rucking, he’s lost his cool so move on instead of retaliating.
“I’m not perfect and I’ve learned from it. It’s a good lesson to learn. Just off the back of it, I tried to make a big carry. Learn from it. Don’t go trying to chase the game.”
Sinckler showed enough in eight caps as a replacement to be selected for the 2017 Lions to New Zealand, where he also performed the role of substitute tighthead in the Test series.
If targeted by Wales and Lions coach Warren Gatland, he will be ready.
“The main thing is just not letting it get in the way of the main goal which is the team winning,” he said.
“Gats does what he does. The main thing for us is that we can’t lose sleep over what they are going to do.”
Sinckler was present for England’s dramatic 21-16 victory in Cardiff two years ago when a late Elliot Daly try sealed a famous win.
“The atmosphere was electric. The Wales national anthem gets the hairs on the back of your neck standing up just with the passion from the fans,” he said.
“I remember the coach journey in and the bus driver took us the wrong way so we were a bit late for our warm-up.
“It’s pretty hostile as you would expect but it is all good fun. You see all the Welsh flags going in and everyone giving you a bit of abuse, which is good fun.”