Will Carling has defended Kyle Sinckler after his ill-discipline contributed to England’s second-half collapse in their 21-13 defeat by Wales.
Sinckler gave away successive penalties at a key stage of the Guinness Six Nations title showdown as a 10-3 interval lead ebbed away, a late hit on Gareth Anscombe and choke hold on Alun Wyn Jones resulting in referee Jaco Peyper’s intervention.
For the previous 56 minutes the Harlequins prop was magnificent and England’s best player alongside Tom Curry, but with evidence that the “emotional timebomb” described by Warren Gatland was about to detonate, Eddie Jones replaced him.
Sinckler’s short fuse was identified as a weakness by Gatland during the build-up to the Principality Stadium collision and new leaders Wales duly exploited it, although the blame for defeat spread far wider than the tighthead’s indiscipline.
“Kyle Sinckler a cheap target by some pundits. Man was amazing in defence 1st half,” said Carling, England’s leadership mentor, on Twitter.
“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.”
Cast as the pantomime villain, Sinckler was booed from the pitch but on tackle count alone he made a destructive impact on a dramatic Test that hung in the balance until Cory Hill drove over in the 68th minute.
Jones has appealed for perspective over the combustible 25-year-old, stating “he’s a young player on the way up. Look after him a bit, hey”, and for Mark Wilson an enthralling Test was lost elsewhere.
England finished the first half with a swagger after weathering an early storm to take command through Tom Curry’s try and the boot of Owen Farrell, but composure then deserted them as they were outsmarted and outfought in the air.
Wilson, the Newcastle flanker, admits they were tactically outmanoeuvred as Wales claimed a record 12th successive victory.
“It was a proper arm wrestle and was enjoyable to play in. You can’t fault the effort of the boys and we put a shift in over the 80 minutes, but we weren’t as good at them,” Wilson said.
“We have to take our hat off to Wales, tactically they got it spot on in the second half. We can’t fault our hard work or physicality, but we weren’t as good as them tactically.
“Their aerial game was really strong there was some indiscipline from us and they capitalised on that.
“Cardiff is an emotional place to play and the crowd gets them fired up. Throughout the game the players enjoyed it. There were still smiling faces with 65 minutes gone when it was going tough.
“We’re fully focused on the title and we’ll do everything in our powers to win the tournament. It’s a massive three weeks ahead.”
The Six Nations table has new leaders in Grand Slam-chasing Wales, but with Italy and Scotland still due at Twickenham England remain bookmakers’ favourites to seize Ireland’s crown.
“It’s not over yet. There are two home games to come and it’s vital that we make amends,” scrum-half Ben Youngs said.
England will be without Courtney Lawes for the remainder of the tournament due to a calf injury he sustained in the second half in Cardiff. The RFU confirmed on Sunday evening that the Northampton second row would be sidelined for at least a month.