CARDIFF – Former England captain Will Carling said Kyle Sinckler was a “cheap target” after the prop found himself being blamed for a second-half collapse that led to a dramatic defeat by Wales.
Sinckler was replaced by England coach Eddie Jones shortly after conceding two penalties that Wales kicked to reduce the visitors' lead to 10-9 shortly before the hour mark in Cardiff on Saturday.
It looked as if the Harlequins front row was being punished for his indiscipline.
Yet for the preceding 56 minutes, Sinckler had been in superb form, making 20 tackles, many of them thunderous but legal challenges.
After the match, which saw Wales extinguish England's hopes of a Grand Slam while maintaining their own bid for a Six Nations clean sweep, Jones said there was not much more to the change than the fact Sinckler was tiring after a colossal effort.
Sinckler was in the spotlight even before kick-off after Wales coach Warren Gatland - who selected the forward during the 2017 British and Irish Lions drawn tour of New Zealand - suggested he was an emotional “time-bomb”.
But Carling, an advisor to the current England squad, took to Twitter to defend Sinckler.
“Kyle Sinckler a cheap target by some pundits. Man was amazing in defence 1st half,” said Carling.
“He was a huge target for the Welsh, no issue with that, but he is fast maturing and learning to keep his edge (which I love) and maintaining control. The man is going to be awesome.”
It was a point emphasised by Jones, who said of the 25-year-old Sinckler: “Trying to single him out and trying to make a villain of him will do him a disservice.
“He's a very good young player, a young prop. He's got 20 caps and is playing in one of the most difficult positions on the field and he'll come through as a great Test player for England.”
The Australian added: “Every player you've got to look after, but I'd ask you not to go after him because you're desperate to go after him. Give the boy a chance.”
In Sinckler's absence, Wales scored a 67th-minute try through Cory Hill to take the lead before Josh Adams put the result beyond doubt with a try two minutes from time.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)