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.
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.
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.
The professional era teams to date…
1. Tony Woodcock
2. Dane Coles
3. Carl Hayman
1. Tom Smith
2. Keith Wood
3. Phil Vickery
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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.