The loosehead prop wears the number 1 shirt on a rugby field and packs down at the front of the scrum to the left of the hooker. Whilst still a powerful scrummager the loosehead is likely to be more capable in the loose than his tighthead counterpart.
The loosehead will usually be one of the heaviest players on the team with professional loosehead props weighing in at 18 stone plus although this should be predominantly lean muscle rather than ‘extra padding’ as the loosehead will often play as an extra loose forward. Although often over 6ft tall loosehead props do now want to have too much height on their side in order to allow them to burrow under the opposition tighthead during the scrum.
In The Loose
In open play loosehead props will generally be expected to help defend around the breakdown whilst also offering the half backs a strong ball carrying option in attack. Top looseheads have a talent for picking mis-matches often running at the channel of a smaller back to barrel over the top of them.
Although unlikely to run the length of the pitch the loosehead will generally be expected to get over the gain line with each carry.The loosehead is a key weapon during rucks and will be expected to hit as many as many rucks as often and as hard as possible to secure own ball and attempt to turn over opposition ball.
In The Scrum
During the scrum the loosehead packs down on the left hand side of the hooker. Together the hooker and loosehead will then attempt to pressure the opposition tighthead and drive the scrum forward. Where possible the loosehead should look to burrow his underneath of the opposition tightheads chest and look to push him up whilst driving forwards.
On his own teams put in the loosehead must help to stabilise the scrum as the scrum half will put the ball in on the loosehead side. By stabilising the scrum the loosehead allows his hooker to hook the ball backwards and through the legs of the second row to secure safe ball.
In The Line Out
The loosehead will often be at the very front of a line out to help lift the taller players to either disrupt the oppositions ball or claim their own ball.
In A Maul
The loosehead will usually be one of the key driving forces in a maul either offensively or defensively. In defence he must look to disrupt opposition ball and attempt to drive the attackers backwards. In an attack maul he needs to help protect the man with the ball whilst driving the maul forwards and will often act as a pivot when the maul switches direction.
Os du Randt is often touted as one of the greatest loosehead props to have ever played the game. Nicknamed “Ox” for his sheer brute strength and having tipped the scales at in excess of 20 stone, du Randt still remains in an elite club of having won two rugby world cups. His destructive scrummaging power helped the Springboks dominate over a period of 13 years and his ball carrying wasn’t bad either.
The video below helps demonstrate the powerful technique at the breakdown employed by a top loosehead prop.