By Greg Stutchbury
TOKYO (Reuters) – All Blacks prop Joe Moody was not buying into the advice of famed Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu that “if your opponent is of choleric temperament, seek to irritate him” ahead of his World Cup semi-final showdown with Kyle Sinckler.
The England tighthead prop, who has acknowledged he had problems controlling himself on the field, has been targeted by opponents before as they sought to exploit his explosive temper.
Sinckler was involved in two on field incidents in this year’s Six Nations tournament while Wales coach Warren Gatland labelled him an “emotional time bomb”.
During the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017, he had to be restrained by team mates when he was tackled in the air by Charlie Faumuina and got involved in a pushing match with several All Blacks.
Not surprisingly, Moody was asked a number of times on Friday whether the All Blacks would look to target Sinckler at Yokohama Stadium on Saturday.
The 31-year-old, however, was not prepared to mimic coaches Steve Hansen and Eddie Jones, who have followed the Chinese military philosopher’s ‘Art of War’ teaching and embarked in a running psychological battle all week through the media.
“I haven’t looked at anyone in particular,” was the extent of Moody’s responses when asked if he had concentrated on Sinckler, and whether he had looked at ways to combat him.
“As far as that whole front row goes, just looking forward to that battle and hopefully get one up I guess.”
It is clear Sinckler has been working on curbing his temper, a fact probably not lost on the All Blacks prop.
He walked away when goaded by the Wallabies front row in the quarter-final last week and then later scored his first test try in England’s 40-16 victory that propelled them to the showdown with the All Blacks.
Sinckler said earlier this year that a seven-week ban for eye gouging in late 2017 had given him an opportunity to think about his temper and after last week’s quarter-final said he was still working on it.
“It’s something I have really tried to own – my discipline – just being cool in the moment,” he told reporters at Oita Stadium.
“Being a man isn’t losing your rag and your emotions, and showing the opposition how you really feel.
“It’s about being calm, being disciplined, putting the team first and doing your job.
“And not allowing your ego to take control.”
Or as Sun Tzu said: “what is essential in war is victory”.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)