‘I knew the cameras were there. I just wanted the attention’

Bristol Bears and England prop Kyle Sinckler has opened up about Wales head coach Warren Gatland’s infamous timebomb comments, which he now views as a turning point in his career.

The early part of Sinckler’s international career was marked out by ill-discipline and a tendency to fire up on the pitch, a facet of his game that the British & Irish Lions prop says he leaned into.

Gatland’s ‘timebomb’ comment came in the lead-up to the 2019 Guinness Six Nations match with Wales in Cardiff and the 29-year-old prop has opened up to RugbyPass about the comments a brilliantly frank interview in an upcoming episode of Rugby Roots with Jim Hamilton, which will be released on December 26th.

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“I don’t actually remember seeing it [online]. I try not to look at things like that when youre in camp and in the thick of things. It’s international rugby. It’s so much more intense.

“I think it was Eddie that came up to me after training. He was like, mate, have you seen this? He was basically just saying have you seen this. He said mate, I’ve got your back, do your thing.

“It kind of took back a little bit, I was just shocked you know, just in terms of him saying that and singling me out.

“We’d had the Lions tour a few years ago. Obviously, he picked me as a bolter, so I was like what’s going on?”

Sinckler went to channel that energy into the crunch game with Wales but it ultimately led to disaster. The Bristol Bear concedes that he embraced the tag as an ‘angry’ young man at the time, admitting that he was desperate for attention at any cost.

“It was probably one of the best games I’d played. I was fired right up. I was like I’m going to show him. I had like 10 tackles in 10 minutes. I got a nice shot on big Al [Alun Wyn Jones], the ultimate puppet master. Got an early shot on him. One of the most physical games I’ve played in. You just can’t sustain it.

“I was just trying to prove this point that I was not this timebomb but subconsciously I kind of liked it, because the attention was all on me.”

Then things took a turn for the worse when Sinckler clipped Wales flyhalf Gareth Anscombe with a shoulder after a clearance kick.

“It got to the point where I gave away a silly penalty. I think Gareth Anscombe chipped and I like [motions a shoulder movement]…just being lazy.

“I was so out of touch with things in my life that I was like ‘I haven’t done anything? Genuinely, I haven’t done anything wrong’.”

Things went from bad to worse when he again tangled with Welsh captain Jones.

“I think it was a tackle with Al. He tried to present the ball with my hands around his neck. Then there was an altercation on the sideline and I’ve just flown in. I knew the cameras were there. I just wanted attention.”

Fearing an imminent card Eddie Jones took the decision to substitute the 122kg tighthead in the 57th minute, with Sinckler coming across very much the timebomb Gatland had painted him as just days earlier.

“It was a blessing, looking back on it but mate… talk about online abuse. Jesus Christ. That was crazy.

“I’d never felt like I’ve let someone [down] but in terms of your country… we’d been playing really well and then we had the Scotland game after but that game [Wales] was the game. It set up the Grand Slam and I had basically messed it up.

“I’d let Eddie down. Eddie’s been a big part of my career but also my life. He took me on a tour in 2016 when I wasn’t even starting for Quins, he gave me a taste of it. He always had my back.

“I’ll never forget after the game, sat on the coach, I honestly probably was looking for him to father me. The coaches sit at the front of the bus and the players at the back. I’d normally never sit at the front but I sat at the front. He was like ‘mate, I got your back. Don’t stress. You’re going to be a great player. I got your back.’

“Don’t think people see that side of him. He is firm, he is very direct, a tough taskmaster but he’s also a good man.”

Looking back on Gatland remark and subsequent on-field blow up, Sinckler recognizes it was a positive pivot point for his career.

“That kind of situation was a catalyst for change. At the time it was pretty dark but you kind of need that friction to grow. That was a point in my life when I realized I have to change. I can’t keep doing this you know.”

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