NEWS
11/11/2011 04:43 EST | Updated 01/11/2012 05:12 EST

No longer a beardo but Jebb Sinclair still making his mark in rugby world

Jebb Sinclair's rugby adventure hasn't slowed down since the World Cup.

The Canadian international made his first start for London Irish last Saturday in a remarkable 24-24 comeback at Leicester in the Aviva Premiership, the top level of English rugby. And the Fredericton forward is set to get his first Heineken Cup start Saturday against visiting Edinburgh.

The six-foot-four, 250-pound backrower got his first taste of action Oct. 29, when he came off the bench in the 63rd minute in a 13-12 loss to Bath.

Then came a trip to Welford Road, the usually impregnable home of the two-time defending champion Leicester Tigers.

The Tigers had 10 of their World Cup players back on duty and led by 17 points with 15 minutes to go, but were unable to stop the late Irish surge.

Sinclair had a strong outing helping set up a Shontayne Hape try with a nifty offload out of a tackle, although he deflected the credit.

"That was just kind of good work from everyone," said Sinclair. "He just really ran a good line. There wasn't much for me to do, just throw it up there and he did all the hard work."

London Irish, 3-4-1, currently stands third in an English table that sees seven of the 12 teams separated by three points. It's a season that has only really just started for real, now that international players like Sinclair have returned from the World Cup.

The 25-year-old Canadian had 10 days off after the World Cup while he waited for his English work visa to come through. He got the visa at noon and headed for England five hours later to start his pro career.

He spent a couple of weeks in a hotel and is now staying in a teammate's spare bedroom while he looks for his own place.

The Irish play their games in Reading at Madejski Stadium but most of the players live near their training ground in Sunbury, some 25 kilometres southwest of central London.

He's not putting a down payment on a Porsche, but it is a step up from living on a modest Sport Canada monthly cheque.

"They don't get paid like North American sports by any means but just for the time being, being able to make a little money and spend a bit, and not have to worry about where your next meal's coming from," he said.

Sinclair, who spent the last four years in Victoria training with the national team, usually plays flanker although he was deployed at lock for Canada at the World Cup. London Irish is using him at No. 8.

"I haven't played (No.) 8 in a long long time," he said. "Last week was definitely fun and it's enjoyable being back there and being able to have a crack at the ball whenever you want it."

At London Irish, Sinclair is surrounded by fellow internationals from England's Delon Armitage and Alex Corbisiero to Samoan Sailosi Tagicakibau and Tongan Chris Hala'ufia.

"It just brings a crispness to every practice and every game," Sinclair said. "The level is really high, there's not a lot of room for error."

Sinclair has a bit of a support group in England in the form of fellow Canadian internationals Jamie and Phil Mackenzie (brothers who play at Esher) and Chauncey O'Toole (Ospreys).

Friends and family in Canada were able to watch Sinclair's first start on a tape-delayed telecast, and Sinclair was under strict instructions not to tell then how the game turned out or how he played — until it aired.

Sinclair is the latest Canadian to wear the London Irish colours. Former Canadian international Phil Murphy was a longtime servant of the Irish.

He has worked hard to follow in Murphy's footsteps.

"It was definitely tough. Probably six months ago there was zero interest in me anywhere in Europe. But the Churchill Cup was in London and Toby Booth, who is the head coach here (at London Irish), was doing play-by-play for TV.

"He saw me in the first game and then came out and watched a few of our practices. That kind of got the ball rolling."

As for the recent World Cup, Sinclair says he hasn't really had time to process everything that went on.

"It was an incredible experience,'' he said.

Fans may not recognize Sinclair these days, however. The beard he sported at the World Cup — along with other beardos Adam Kleeberger and Hubert Buydens — has morphed into a moustache as part of Movember.

"This will be gone Dec. 1, hopefully," he said.

Of course, he can always grow another beard. The last one took just four months — all he did after was trim it.

He still can't believe the attention the facial hair attracted Down Under.

"It definitely was something unreal for us, coming from Canada," he said. "We never expected anything like that.

"It obviously helped that the three of us were playing well, as well. Because no one likes a gimmick from a (bad) player."