Kyle Sinckler is expected to make a welcome return from injury for England against Japan on Sunday after returning to full fitness following a chest problem.
Sinckler managed just two appearances from the bench in England’s four warm-up matches before, as revealed by the Guardian, he was struck down by injury which prompted fears he could miss out on the tournament entirely. He missed out against Argentina but it is understood that Sinckler is set to make his comeback against Japan either from the start or off the replacements bench.
Sinckler’s return to fitness is a boost for Steve Borthwick given the 30-year-old started all five of England’s Six Nations matches. Dan Cole performed admirably in last weekend’s defiant victory over Argentina but when fully fit, Sinckler is Borthwick’s first choice tighthead prop.
Borthwick is set to resist the temptation to make wholesale changes following his side’s 27-10 triumph but he must reshuffle his back row after Tom Curry’s suspension. Billy Vunipola would appear to be the obvious choice to come into the side at No 8 with Ben Earl shifting to openside flanker but Lewis Ludlam is thought to be pushing hard for a start, having impressed off the bench against Argentina.
Before England’s warm-up campaign began, Sinckler spoke of how he had “the first pre-season in my career that I’ve completed without being injured”, but his luck soon ran out. He was repeatedly troubled by a back injury last year and has only replicated the fine form he produced at the 2019 World Cup – particularly in the quarter-final against Australia – in fits and starts since.
“He’s worked incredibly hard,” said the England defence coach, Kevin Sinfield. “He’s been in the team sessions now for the last couple, he joined at the back end of last week. He’s fit and ready to go and I think having spoken to [strength and conditioning coach] Aled [Walters] you understand the work they do behind the scenes with the guys who are injured.”
Speaking on Wednesday, Sinfield added: “He’s a good guy, he works incredibly hard, he’s a great character, makes people laugh and if selected he deserves his spot. Because he’s worked hard like they all have. Competition for places is really good at this moment in time.
“With people who have been injured or suspended, them coming back is really important for us moving forward. Because the best teams I’ve played in and worked with have had competition for places and great depth, and when we are fully fit and when all 33 are available, there’s a wonderful amount of competition for places within there.”