Super fan Sinckler ready to become a Lion

10:00 PM BST

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — By his own admission, Kyle Sinckler is in “rugby heaven”. He is a British & Irish Lions fanatic, has poured over the various videos of previous tours and knows speeches word-for-word.

On Saturday he will pull on the famous red shirt and take a place next to his heroes. He is in his element but recognises emotions will have to be kept in check.

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Amid the increasing pressure to modernise and monetise the tourists, there is a wonderful heartfelt-nature in Sinckler’s love for the Lions. He is loving every moment of being here, among some of the northern hemisphere greats, and is treating it as an opportunity to glean as much rugby nous as he possibly can off those who have been at the Test coalface for the past decade.

Sinckler, who is yet to start at Test level, begins at tight-head in the Lions’ first match of the 2017 tour and will line up alongside veteran Rory Best.

“I’m pretty sure Rory Best is tired of hearing my voice,” Sinckler said. “He shared a room with me for about two or three days and I’m always asking him: ‘what was Marcus Horan like?’, ‘what was John Hayes like?’ ‘Jerry Flannery, what was he like?’

“He’s just there looking at me like, ‘really?, it’s 12 a.m. and we’ve got to get up in a few hours and you’re asking me about the 2007 Six Nations’.

“I’m always trying to learn, I’d be a bit of a fool if I didn’t ask these guys questions, watch them and hang around them, to see how they work day in, day out.

“At the end of the day, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, isn’t it? If I can’t try and be a sponge and learn off them, then I’d be a bit naive and a bit stupid.”

Sinckler’s passion for the Lions was evident as he talked on Thursday about his pride at representing the tourists. He has lived and breathed the famous side, and has watched the videos of previous tours, with the speeches striking a chord.

Sinckler has won eight England caps, all as a replacement. David Rogers/Getty Images

“I know the Paul O’Connell [speech] one from 2013, I know the Jim Telfer one, I know the Warren Gatland one from 2009 third Test. I like the Phil Vickery one with Andrew Sheridan before the first Test [in 2009]…when he head-butts him and then Graham Rowntree is looking at them and thinking what’s going on here.

“I’ve always been a fan and always will be, so it’s just a massive honour for me to put on the jersey at the weekend and hopefully I leave it in a better place.”

Despite Sinckler living his dream, he is aware that he has to keep his emotions in check. “It’s been a bit surreal, but you kind of have to rein it in a bit and focus on not letting the moment overwhelm you. Get focused and go out there to do the job.”

He has been with the Lions since week one when they met in London back on May 8 — “it’s been training, training and choir practice” — but on Saturday he finally gets his chance to emulate his heroes and play for the Lions.

But memories of tours gone by, and his own childhood self will be parked as he focuses on the task in hand and ensuring the Lions get their 2017 campaign off to a winning start.

“There is a fine edge. If you get too emotional, too revved up, too psyched up, you lose your focus and get into little scuffles, you start over-thinking things.

“I’m just excited to go out there, play rugby and hit people for a living. I don’t need to get excited to play rugby. I can’t wait to get out there to train this afternoon. I don’t need a massive rev up. I’m ready to go.”

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