Having been forced to play prop on the odd occasion (against my will), there were a few things I learnt pretty quickly…
1.It’s a lot more tiring than you think
Yes, there may be endless jokes about them being the fat sods of the team, but the work they put in is seriously tough at times. There are times when props are expected to apply maximum force in a scrum for sustained periods before then having to lift at the line out before joining a maul, then have to rush to join the defensive line – it’s a lot harder than you might think.
2.Technique beats size almost every time
When asked to play prop, I was by no means the smallest player in the front row, however I learnt pretty quickly that experience and technique trumps size every time. On more than one occasion I found myself getting dominated by an old bloke seemingly half my size who managed to get underneath me and get my head pointing in the wrong direction.
3.Even flankers have a big role to play in the scrum
It’s amazing just how much difference having the flankers pushing properly makes. Although most people believe that the tight five are there for pushing and the flankers are there to cut off attacks, this is not the case. Having a flanker applying a suitable amount of force through their prop makes an incredible amount of difference to whether you go forwards or backwards in the scrum.
4.It’s pretty easy to keep a scrum up
If you only watch professional rugby, you may be led to believe that there is a significant amount of difficulty in keeping scrums up. However when playing yourself you realise that it’s really not that difficult, it’s simply a case of players looking to gain an advantage. I can count on a single hand the number of times a scrum collapsed without someone going down deliberately.
5.The camaraderie is something else
There’s a special kind of bond that exists between players in the front row. Spending that amount of time with your heads next to each other ensures everyone becomes friends pretty quickly even when you’re trying to batter the hell out of each other. Whilst other players will also enjoy rugby’s camaraderie, I can guarantee it is nothing like that experienced between front rowers.