George Ford has backed England teammate Kyle Sinckler to keep his cool when they take on Wales in today’s Six Nations encounter at Twickenham, having been targeted by their experienced old guard 12 months ago.
Wales defeated England 21-13 on their way to the Grand Slam in 2019 in a match where Sinckler became the story thanks to the wily tactics of Alun Wyn Jones and the rest of the leadership team, who were able to get under the skin of the prop and turn the tables on a game that was going in England’s favour until shortly before the hour mark.
Sinckler was replaced soon after by Eddie Jones, with Warren Gatland making comments about the Harlequins prop after the match that he later admitted he shouldn’t have made, but the importance of the incident on the match cannot be understated.
Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
The Londoner still has a long education ahead of him at 26 years old, but he has already come a long way in the year since that has shown not only a talent that puts him on a world class level, but also a maturity that has helped to keep a calm head when previously he may have erupted.
Ford believes that the experience in Cardiff last year gave Sinckler a valuable lesson, but it also delivered one that the rest of the squad took on board in that the tighthead does not have to deal with the pressure alone, whether or not it comes from Jones et al this weekend.
“I would agree. He would say that himself,” said Ford. “He probably reflected on that game from an individual point of view and learnt massively from it.
“One thing I would say is, it is not just him – I know in that particular game he had a few things going on – but it is how the team can help individuals out. We have learnt from that as a team. We know in Test matches they will go after a few individuals, as we would to the opposition.
“With Sink, he has learnt and addressed a few things and got better at a few things himself and we have probably become more aware that those things are going to happen and what can we do as a team to make sure it doesn’t escalate to the point where it will cost us.”
The team that Jones has selected for Saturday’s encounter features the most-capped starting XV ever seen by an England team, which comes just four months after many of the same players featured in the youngest side to reach a World Cup final. It is a remarkable stat that bodes well for their future, given they are not even a year into the current cycle and World Cup-winning teams are built on experience first.
But it has meant that at times England have lacked that nous to get stuck into the opposition. Maro Itoje has shown an ability to do exactly that this tournament, though that is largely with his performances rather than anything he says or does, while in Sinckler England possess a player who is never short of a word or two for the opposition. There is something about Wales though – and in particular their veteran skipper Jones who collects cap No 147 to move within two of Richie McCaw’s all-time record – that enables them to get under the skin more than most, particularly when it’s against their fiercest rivals.
“We have definitely had a few discussions,” added Ford. “It is a balance. You don’t want to make too much of a big deal about it because you end up speaking about the opposition too much – but you have to anticipate it and be aware of it so it doesn’t come as a shock at the weekend.
“We have discussed what potentially could happen and the plan of what we would do to look after individuals and look after the team. You don’t want to get to a game without thinking about it, talking about is as a team and then you think ‘Jesus, what is going on here’ and then before you know it five or 10 minutes of the game has gone, momentum has shifted and you are in that sort of a game again.”