Kyle Sinckler is refusing to take his England future for granted, despite a man of the match performance against Australia that boss Eddie Jones hailed as ‘magnificent’.
The Harlequins prop has a long way to go match the 114 caps accumulated by Stoop front row legend Jason Leonard, but it seemed a match where he came of age.
He earned three caps off the bench for the Lions in New Zealand last year, but has largely been an understudy to Leicester’s Dan Cole for England. Here, the 25-year-old south Londoner had an unforgettable match.
He forced an early five-yard scrum that led to England’s opening try at Twickenham and even though his 12 carries underlined his brilliance at winning hard yards with ball in hand, it was his work with the pack which did so much to create a winning platform.
“I thought he scrummed magnificently,” said England’s head coach. “Whoever picked man of the match today deserves a pat on the back – they got one right for a change.”
But if they praise was swirling around him, Sinckler, who earned his 17th cap in the 37-18 victory to wrap up the autumn internationals, seemed contented rather than euphoric after the match.
“When I was a bit younger, I’d probably be a bit more over the moon and kind of enjoy the moment, but for me it’s done,” he said. “The main thing is the team got a victory.
“I’m back at Harlequins this week and I think the best players – which is what I’m striving to be – never take anything for granted. You don’t get complacent. What’s done is done.
“It’s a learning thing for me and I’ve just got to keep preparing well for matches. I think we’ve got an eight or ten week gap before the Six Nations and for now, it’s just about focusing on Quins against Exeter on Friday night.
“I think I’ll be involved in that and I need to put performances in to try and get back in the [England] squad. I’ll never assume that I’ll be in.
“I’ve sort of been through it already when I was younger and I got on an England tour when I was 20. I thought I was the man, but I was non-existent for a few years, so I’ve worked hard to get myself back in and I’ve got to keep working hard.
“I’ve still got a long way to go. I think the day you start thinking you’ve got the job – that a transition is in process and you’re the man – that’s when you are going to get found out, especially at the highest level. So for me, all I can do is prepare each week as best as I can.”
Jones said: “I think he’s matured. We got him out of Harlequins to play five or ten minutes off the bench for Test rugby and it was all new to him.
“It was meteoric rise and he played for the Lions. You’ve got to keep working with those kind of players to keep getting the right mentality and he’s doing that all the time. He wants to be the best tight-head prop in the world.”
Team-mate Maro Itoje summed up Sinckler’s impact perfectly: ”He’s great to play with and annoying to play against,” he said. “I’ve experienced it both ways and I was happy I was playing with him this time around.”
That may be so, but the man himself is determined to keep his powerful, nearly 18-stone frame, very firmly on the ground.