Tighthead prop has been a real pillar of solidarity for the Lions since the advent of professionalism.

In the five series to date, there have only been five players to start tests in this position. Remarkable really, when you look at other positions over the same period. Paul Wallace, Phil Vickery, and Adam Jones were ever-present in the 1997, 2001, and 2013 series respectively.

With such an illustrious group of strongmen available, it came down, at least for us here at The 1014, to consistency and longevity.

This is most impressively shown by Phil Vickery. Vickery was not only ever-present in 2001, he was pencilled in for the 2005 tour before failing a last-minute fitness test and then returned to face the all-conquering Springboks of 2009.

Some would point out that he played in two series and lost in two series. This is factually correct; however, looking deeper tells a different story. The 2001 Wallabies and the 2009 Springboks were both reigning world champions, Tri-Nations winners, and arguably the finest sides to wear their respective jerseys; just ask the All Blacks of those years!

So, Phil Vickery, it is for us here at The 1014.

Phil Vickery taking on Victor Matfield in the 3rd Test. © Matthew Impey/Wiredphotos. co. uk
Phil Vickery taking on Victor Matfield in the 3rd Test. © Matthew Impey/Wiredphotos. co. uk

Hayman v Franks

There are two tighthead props that are almost inseparable when looking at picking this team, from an All Blacks perspective.

The first is Carl Hayman, who famously became the 1000th All Black when he took the field against Samoa at Albany in 2001. He was only 21 years of age and had the rugby world talking. Not only was he a historically young tighthead, he was also built in almost superhuman proportions. At 1.93m he was tall and 115kg he was big; an all-round giant of the game. Sadly he was lost to NZ rugby after the calamity of Cardiff in 2007 at the incredibly young age of 27.

This early retirement from NZ rugby almost certainly helped ease the door open for an even younger tighthead in Owen Franks. At 21 years and 186 days of age, Franks became the third youngest prop in All Blacks history.

Franks’ training, scrummaging and total dedication to the cause are the stuff of legend.

There have even been rumours that the coaches have to tell Franks to cut back on the training such is his desire to improve. With two World Cups, a mere 10% loss record in all tests played, and a truly remarkable zero tries from 90 tests it is hard not to be immensely impressed by Franks. He is still only 29 and has potentially years left in the jersey to continue to build his legacy.

Owen Franks charges into France's Lionel Nallet during the 2011 RWC final
Owen Franks charges into France’s Lionel Nallet during the 2011 RWC final

The Decision

For all the statistics and accolades afforded to Franks, it is Hayman that takes our tighthead position. This is largely built on the sentiment that many in the know rate him second only to the great Ken Grey as New Zealand’s finest prop.

Carl Hayman hits the ball up as South African first five Butch James attempts to tackle him. Wellington, 2006. Photo: Tim Hales/PHOTOSPORT
Carl Hayman hits the ball up as South African first five Butch James attempts to tackle him. Wellington, 2006. Photo: Tim Hales/PHOTOSPORT

The professional era teams to date…

All Blacks

1. Tony Woodcock
2. Dane Coles
3. Carl Hayman

Lions

1. Tom Smith
2. Keith Wood
3. Phil Vickery

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Photos: www.photosport.nz

Author: Steven Prescott

I am a total sports fanatic; it is as simple as that. I love all sports, and when I’m not sitting at my computer living my dream with The 1014, I am planning adventures. The last time I did this I ended up convincing my wife to cycle 26,125km across three continents, and 22 countries with me as part of the Pedalling Prescotts.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Vickery was bloody useless in the 1st test in South Africa. Was a major factor losing that test. They dropped him pronto and put in Adam jones who should be the top pick for this list or Paul Wallace for sure. and FYI before you think of picking anyone other than Simon shaw as one of your locks go and watch any game he played in a lions jersey. Arguably his performance in the losing 2nd test in 2009 was the greatest lock performance by anyone ever.

  2. Ps – good app by the way. It’s Big Ben Tony’s mate. For what’s it worth my Professional era lions team would be :

    1- Tom smith
    2 – wood
    3- Adam jones
    4 – Martin Johnson
    5- Simon shaw
    6 – Dan Lydiate
    7 – Richard hill
    8- dallaglio

    9- howley
    10- wilkinson
    11- north
    12- Gibbs
    13 – O’Driscoll
    14- Ieuan Evans
    15 – Jason Robinson

  3. Loving the passion and banter there Ben. Thanks for the ups on the App.
    Your team is 9/15 the same as ours. Big ups for putting your XV out there.
    Yes, Shaw’s performance in Pretoria was immense, but is a one off good enough for an all time team? You’ll have to check in tomorrow.

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