Daniel Zeqiri looks into the background of the Lions prop who hasn’t yet started for England and struggles to even make his club side.

Opponents may bounce off Kyle Sinckler's hulking frame, but his surprise Lions call-up to tour New Zealand reveals altogether more absorbent qualities.

The dynamic Harlequins rugby tighthead was named as one of Warren Gatland's "bolters" this week, despite never starting an England test and not being a certain starter at club level.

Sinckler has learned quickly and travels to New Zealand with Quins colleague Joe Marler as well as forwards coach Graham Rowntree, men he credits with "changing his life".

The 24-year-old said: "I'm lucky to be around guys who are front-five specialists day in, day out. And I'd be an absolute idiot if I didn't try to be a sponge and soak up everything and watch how they analyse their opponents and how smart they are and how they work and look after their body.


"I've literally been like an eagle watching them. They probably think I'm a bit of a weirdo but I'd be a fool if I didn't learn off them while they're here. I'm incredibly lucky."

Harlequins player-coach Adam Jones is another well of front-row experience and insight to delve into, though Sinckler joked he might have to cajole the Welshman into divulging trade secrets.

"I'll probably try to get him out for a steak on me. He won't say no to that. I'll just pick his brains and talk about his experiences and see if I can learn anything from him.

"He's been a massive, massive influence since I came here. If you guys had seen me two years ago and seen how much my game had changed from then to now ... "

Jones was the first to congratulate Sinckler on his unlikely Lions call-up, news he learnt when his mobile phone started "going crazy" in a team meeting.

The England international admits he had no expectations before the squad announcement, and will now spend a few days with family to take stock.

Sinckler, who never knew his father, has credited his mother Donna's influence on his career and it was with her that he shared a formative Lions memory.

"I think I had five missed calls from her and I called her in the car and she was saying how proud she was," Sinckler recalled.

"We reminisced about the time the Lions toured South Africa in 2009 and I was downstairs and she was upstairs and I was screaming at the telly.

"We were drawing when Ronan O'Gara puts the high bomb up and then he gave away the penalty and Morne Steyn kicked it.

"I was literally in tears, crying and weeping. My mum came down to check I was okay and I said 'we've lost, we've lost' and she said 'what is wrong with you?' "

Critics have suggested that previous Lions squads contained a few players who were too easily satisfied by merely being there, but the fierce competition for places on this tour should ensure that is not an issue.

Sinckler's time in Eddie Jones's famously intense England regime should hold the ball-carrying forward in good stead.

"If you're in an Eddie Jones environment and you're just happy to be there then you're in trouble. You'll be out the door straight away.

"The mindset for me has always been that I want to be the best player in my position," said Sinckler. "We'll see what happens, but being involved with England shows you cannot settle for being second best. If you're not pushing yourself every training session, every weights session, every stretching session you know. Every meeting. If you're not striving to be the best and No1 team in the world then you can't be there."

If you're in an Eddie Jones environment and you're just happy to be there then you're in trouble. You'll be out the door straight away. The mindset for me has always been that I want to be the best player in my position.


Teammate and fellow prop Marler is also in the 41-man squad, following a resurgent winter and Six Nations campaign. The loosehead took a self-imposed break from international rugby last summer, stating that he was not in the right frame of mind to pull on the England jersey.

After working his way back into Jones' England XV, Marler is savouring the chance to face the All Blacks with Sinckler.

Marler said: "It's nice isn't it? Two props from the same club. We get on all right. He's constantly, 'Are you coming in early tomorrow, mate? Doing an extra session?' Because I like to train on my own sometimes, and he got wind that I was training extra separate sessions and he was like, 'Do you mind if I join you?' 'Yeah, go on then'.

"Then he puts his music on and I'm like 'no'. If you're joining my sessions we're listening to Paul Simon. So no, I'm really pleased for him. And hopefully he can go down there and show four nations the strengths that he can bring to a game."

Quins director of rugby John Kingston also endorsed Sinckler, saying: "I've got a soft spot for himbecause I find him pretty straightforward. He says what he thinks, and a lot of people hold that in. He struggles sometimes to control or contain that emotion. He is a very emotional individual. But I like that."

Marler and Kingston however, were keen to remind Sinckler of the hard yards that lie ahead. "I don't give him too much. I keep him [at] arm's length," said a smiling Marler. "Because he's still a young pup, and he's still got to work his way up the ladder at club level. You've got to do some grafting years at your club."

Kingston added: "We all know that he is an incredibly powerful ball-carrier, an incredibly powerful man in a lot of what he does.

"He's in a very formative stage still in his bread and butter, his set-piece work, which is possibly why he hasn't yet started for England. So they obviously see him as someone who can be hugely impactive in that power game. And looking at the rest of the selections it tends to lead you to think that's what they're looking for."

"It's a gradual process, I can understand it looks like a meteoric rise into the Lions squad. But at the moment, is he guaranteed to start for Harlequins? No. He knows he is still under considerable pressure."