BY TOBY PORTER
Tooting rugby player Kyle Sinckler stands on the threshold of history – after reaching the top through sheer determination.
The 26-year-old looks likely to feature for England in the World Cup Final in Japan against South Africa on Saturday, little more than a decade after coaxing his school into setting up its first rugby team.
Sinckler played a starring role in England’s World Cup quarter-final victory over Australia – and featured in the semi-final against New Zealand on Saturday.
The tighthead prop from Furzedown in Tooting was at nearby Tooting Graveney school and preferred football in his early teens.
His mum, Donna, pointed out his physique was much better suited to the oval ball game.
But there was a problem – the school did not have a rugby team or even include rugby on the curriculum.
He and some friends were 13 when they asked PE teacher Anastacia Long to ask if she would help them set up a club.
“I told them I’d be happy to arrange some fixtures and drive the minibus,” she told the Guardian.
Her husband was coach and referee.
The kits had to be shared between teams aged from 11 to 18. Training was in local parks or at Old Rutlishians rugby club, in Merton Park, which allowed them to play for free.
Sinckler began his career at Premiership club Harlequins when academy coach Collin Osborne saw him, aged 12, playing at one of his various positions, this time full back, against King’s College School, Wimbledon.
Kyle was sent to Richmond on loan in 2011-12, where he helped them to promotion to National League One.
He also went on loan to Ealing Trailfinders in 2013.
Sinckler represented England at U16, U18, U19 and U20 levels.
He was named in the England U20 Elite Player Squad for the 2011/12 season.
In his first season playing for the U20 team, he played 10 times, across the Six Nations U20 Championship and 2012 IRB Junior World Championship.
Sinckler was called up to the senior England squad by coach Eddie Jones on May 8, 2016 and made his debut for England on November 12, 2016, coming on as a sub against South Africa.