Kyle Sinckler was a surprise omission from the initial squad
Kyle Sinckler, the Bristol and England prop, has been called up by the British and Irish Lions for the tour to South Africa following an injury to Leinster and Ireland prop Andrew Porter.
Sinckler will link up with the Lions when Bristol’s season comes to an end, with the club already qualified for the Gallagher Premiership semi-finals which take place on June 19, a week before the Lions face Japan at Murrayfield.
Porter has been ruled out of the tour with a toe injury he suffered playing for Leinster this weekend in the Guinness Pro14 Rainbow Cup.
The versatile Porter, who can cover both sides of the scrum, was one of three tightheads originally selected by the Lions ahead of Sinckler, a tourist in 2017, with Porter originally called up along with Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong and Scotland’s Zander Fagerson.
"It’s really bad luck for Andrew and we send him our very best wishes for a quick and successful rehab," said British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland. "Andrew is a young man with a big future ahead of him and I’m sure he’ll be in contention again in four years’ time."
Addressing Sinckler’s call-up, Gatland hoped the Englishman "continues to stick two fingers up to me about leaving him out in the first place" given his "excellent form of late" for Bristol.
"As always in rugby, when there’s an injury there’s an opportunity for someone else. I have been very pleased to see the way Kyle has responded to initially being left out of the touring party," Gatland said.
Sinckler spoke emotively after missing out on original selection for the Lions squad, producing a man-of-the-match performance for Bristol against Bath days after his omission, and was widely praised for his post-match interview afterwards addressing his disappointment at missing out on a Lions call-up.
“It means so much to me.
“In a year or two i’ll look back on it and it’ll all make sense, but right now it doesn’t.”
Incredible honesty from @BristolBears’ @KyleSinckler.
Visibly emotional, he discusses how it felt to miss out on #LionsRugby selection. pic.twitter.com/60H30rku4R
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) May 8, 2021
Sinckler said at the time: "I’m not going to lie, I’m quite emotional right now. It’s been tough. It means so much to me. I’m just lucky I’ve got my mentor at Saviour World and we broke it down. I kind of understand the reasons why. I think, in a year or two, I’ll look back and it’ll all make sense. Right now, it doesn’t make sense.
"But what I wanted to do was lead by example and show the kids. How easy would it have been for me to play the victim, say ‘sorry me’ and throw my toys out of the pram. It’s been so tough. I’ve never experienced anything like this in my whole life.
"I’m just lucky I’ve got a good support team around me. I wanted to show the kids and everyone at home how much it means to me. Do the tough stuff, get on with it, use that anger.
"I’ve got so much anger in me right now but actually use it in a positive way and do what’s best for the team. I think I did that today."
Four years ago Sinckler was an important contributor for the Lions, winning three Test caps off the bench against New Zealand, having only made his England debut the previous November when he was still with Harlequins.
Sinckler was one of 30 players included on the Lions’ standby list for the tour to South Africa after Gatland named his 37-man squad to tour South Africa last month.
He becomes the first Bristol player to be called up by the Lions since Simon Shaw and Mark Regan were both at the club back in 1997, with both featuring on that year’s tour to South Africa.
Porter’s injury reduces the number of Irish players on the tour to seven – with Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson, Conor Murray, Jack Conan, Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw selected – while England’s contingent within the Lions squad has increased to 12 with Sinckler’s addition.
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen addressed the news of Porter’s injury by telling Leinster’s website: "We are all bitterly disappointed for Ports. He has worked incredibly hard to get this opportunity and it was richly deserved.
“He is fortunate that he has youth on his side and will hopefully have another shot at a Lions tour again but that doesn’t take away from his disappointment now."