KYLE SINCKLER’S secret weapon on the rugby pitch didn’t use to be one of his bone-crunching tackles or a killer offload.
Instead, the fiery England star had an utterly unique way of calming things down when his local team Battersea Ironsides were under the pump.
“Kyle used to do this impression of a black American preacher at the most tense time in games and it would take all the pressure off the boys,” his old coach Bob Lettman told SunSport.
“He is a very funny guy, a great all-round kid and was a joy to coach. Kyle also has that dark, brutal side – but all top internationals have that. It’s about controlling it and using that edge.”
Fearsome Sinckler first rocked up at the Wandsworth club in south west London in full Manchester United kit after quitting football as an eight-year-old following a spate of red cards.
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Now the tyro tighthead is an absolute hero at Ironsides where they have one of his first England shirts proudly framed in the bar.
In the Cardiff cauldron cannonball Sinckler will be the rock of the England scrum against Wales.
And 150 miles away his old SW18 clubhouse will be rocking as they cheer the 25-year-old on.
Sinckler is Ironsides through and through and still comes back every summer to give out awards and dish out tips to the new generation of kids that now idolise him.
A run of nine starts in the last Tests has seen him make the England no.3 shirt his own, having played as a fly-half and centre as a teenager.
Lettman said: “I remember when I took over the under-11s I raced the whole team across the width of the pitch. I was a winger in my playing days, Kyle was a prop. . . and he beat me.
I moved Kyle from prop and he played in the centres – the Mathieu Basteraud role, yeah, I invented it! Kyle would also take our kicks and spent hours practicing.
Bob Lettman, Kyle Sinckler's old Battersea Ironsides coach
“And if we ever had a new player who was a bit nervous, Kyle would play the big brother role and look after them. He has a natural ability to support people. He smiles a lot and enjoys the game.
“The opposition feared him because he was a ferocious tackler and I remember one time he tackled this kid and the ref stopped the game to tell the parents on the sidelines how it was the perfect tackle.
“I would let him know that as he got older he would be targeted, that he needed to wind his neck in as the opposition would try and wind him up. And he soon learnt to respond with the ball.”
Turbo-charged Sinckler and Lettman still go to the same barbers in Tooting and he’s still in touch with guys like his old teammate Tom Newman, son of club chairman Rob.
Newman senior recalled: “Kyle came here as an under 8 and he was a big kid, but very early on that you knew he had something special.
“I remember we played one game against a French side and he flattened them. He just ran rings around their backs. He was 16 then and that day he played as a centre.
“I then went to watch him for the England under-20s against France. He saw me and my son Tom and he came over to chat to us.
“Kyle had writing down both arms in ballpoint pen. He told us that on one arm, he had all the things the coaches had told him not to do, and on the other, all the these things he was allowed to do!”
England boss Eddie Jones calls Harlequins star Sinckler and fellow rock-star rucker Ellis Genge the Eastenders boys because of their hard-man image.
And no non-nonsense Sinckler has shown that he won’t take a backwards step in his breakthrough Six Nations having already squared up to Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony in Dublin.
He is quickly becoming one of the most feared players in world rugby, but off the pitch, Sinckler is still the boy from Battersea.
Ironsides president Richard Smith, added: “All of us at Ironsides are immensely proud of him.
“Kyle probably joined the strongest age group we have ever had and by the time he was 15-years-old he was easily the standout player as a prop, but he still liked to play fly-half too if he had the opportunity.
“He had such good hands so would play no.10 for a couple of years or in the centres and no one could stop him. He was exceptionally quick and would be off the mark in a flash.
“We see him once or twice a year and one time he came back he moaned that he never got an end-of-season award.
“The two that we give out are most-improved and best attitude – so in 2016 we gave him an award. . . we couldn’t give him the award for best attitude – so it had to be most-improved!”