Kyle Sinckler hopes England's 'tough patch' is behind them as dark days start to 'pay dividends'

Kyle Sinckler has started the last two games against Japan and Chile at the Rugby World Cup

There may well be light at the end of an underwhelming year for England.

After three wins from three at the Rugby World Cup, Steve Borthwick's side are beginning to build momentum at just the right time - and for the time under the head coach's stewardship.

England finished fourth in this year's Six Nations as their new coaching set-up - brought in to rectify a difficult post-Covid streak under old boss Eddie Jones - struggled to acclimatise.

Speaking about that campaign, Kyle Sinckler explained the difficult task Borthwick faced: "Steve coming in, having a week's prep with us, trying to fix loads of things on the run, it was just one of those things," he said. "We were always playing catch up."

However, the prop-forward, now a more experienced head in the side with 66 caps to his name, believes that England's turmoil was all part of their growth.

This has been a persistent attitude amongst the England squad, despite a seemingly shambolic turnout in the World Cup warm-ups with three losses, including a first-ever to probable quarter-final opponents Fiji.

"In terms of my experience with how warm-up games go, it's still pre-season," Sinckler said. "In the week, you're still preparing, still training as if it's still pre-season, so your energy levels - not that it's an excuse - are not going to be where they are for a World Cup.

"We went through a tough patch during the warm-up games, but we just stuck together as a group and wanted to do everyone proud back home. Hopefully, we've done that in the first three games [of the World Cup].

"We've had three or four months together before we get to the big event, so you can see we are a lot more cohesive and guys know exactly what is expected of each other."

Whilst the scrutiny on England has remained high as their style of rugby has supposedly coughed and spluttered in comparison to the flamboyancy of France or the clarity of Ireland and South Africa, the identity that won Borthwick a Premiership title with a previously written-off Leicester Tigers side is becoming increasingly evident.

And Sinckler feels England's turnaround is a testament to the coaches: "A lot of us have worked with Steve before and a lot of the other guys have worked with Wiggy [Richard Wigglesworth] and Kev [Kevin Sinfield]. They set the standards high. Hopefully you guys can see the fruits of our labour on the field."

Sinckler, himself, is perhaps an astute case study for England's varying fortunes of late. A player deemed pivotal to their interests in 2019, the 30-year-old was knocked out in the World Cup final against South Africa and was also in danger of missing this tournament due to a chest problem.

Added to this, his work around the park and at the set-piece seemed to have withered but Sinckler has come back stronger.

In his two games so far against Japan and Chile, he is yet to lose a scrum and has made a total of 12 carries for 46 metres. Speaking of his return to personal form, Sinckler said: "For me, it is a massive amount of gratitude to be back out there. Before the Fiji game, I pulled up with a pectoral tear which was really touch and go.

"But I was keen to play against Japan and to get a start [in England's 71-0 win over Chile last Saturday] was pretty cool. The scan came back and didn't look great but I knew it would be fine. I am very grateful to be here at my second World Cup, in my 13th year as a professional."

On working on his own game, Sinckler added: "The only way to get better at scrummaging is live scrummaging, and in the pre-season, I've never hit so many scrums in my life. Genuinely, it was tough. It was really, really tough.

"That hard work we put in during pre-season is hopefully, touch wood, starting to pay its dividends now. 

"The only thing that isn't expected from me is to kick and take high balls! The role has changed since I first came on the scene and the way I played tighthead prop, a lot of people said: "You can't do it that way"'; ball-carrying, tips, chasing. I had to really work hard on my scrummaging because that didn't come naturally.

"Now it is, 'We want you to make 10 carries, make 10 tackles, get two or three scrum penalties, be strong in the kick-chase, hit the rucks' so the standard is high.

"The main thing is to never take your position in the team for granted [with Dan Cole and Will Stuart also competing for a spot at tighthead], but also being humble enough to understand that sometimes your role may change. For me, I know what I can do. I know what I can offer."

Sinckler and England will be keen to continue building in the right direction when they face Samoa in their final Pool D fixture a week on Saturday in Lille.

And the British and Irish Lion believes Samoa's reputation precedes them: "They're no mugs. They're bloody physical. I watched the Argentina game [last Friday], there was some huge hits going in there. They got a yellow card after 40 seconds so those guys will be fired up! I know those boys will be going hard and they know we'll be going hard."

Despite a quarter-final against fellow Pacific Islanders and warm-up tormentors Fiji most likely in the offing, the 30-year-old, whilst undoubtedly focused on the task at present, knows that their next opponents will be good preparation for bigger things to come.

"If you look too far beyond, then you don't respect your next opponent and you could be in trouble. For us, there are enough experienced guys in the room. We know what's expected and all the focus is on Samoa.

"One thing I've been really impressed with Samoa is their set-piece work. If you look, especially in the first half against Argentina, those guys really took Argentina on in the scrum so up front, we are going to have to be on our Ps and Qs.

"It’s a definite acid test."