Prop Idols

When I was growing up, Props were a very different breed from those that inhabit the Earth today.

They bore absolutely no resemblance to the finely tuned athletes that grace the front rows of the modern game.

The props of yesteryear had many differences, the first one being anatomical, they had no neck, in fact their head was attached directly to their shoulders, scums never collapsed in those days as a direct result of this genetic mutation.

Loose head and tight head were cranial descriptions of their afflictions , and had no bearing on front row positional terminology.

Whereas Props like Gethin Jenkins can kick and chase, and show and go, in the old days the only way you could tell that a prop was actually running, was by the expression on his face.

There were some great English props around in the 70s, “Stack” Stevens, for example,(now there’s a proper props name if ever there was one), Fran Cotton, and a gentleman called Colin Smart ,who defied the dictionary definition of his surname, by drinking a miniature bottle aftershave, given to him at a pre match dinner following a France v England international at Parc des Princes.

The rest of his evening was spent in the company of a Parisian stomach pump, the only upside being, he didn’t suffer with bad breath for around seven to eight months.

But today’s props are an incredible tribute to what nature can produce when you mix protein shakes with Nandos.

Uini Antonio, the French international prop, is 6ft 6ins and weighs 22st 4lbs, he was born in Timaru, New Zealand, and rumours abound that he had to travel as cargo, when flying from Auckland to Charles de Gaulle airport, in Paris.

In contrast, Graham Price, the legendary Wales prop of the 1970s, weighed in at 15st 2lbs and reached 5ft 10 in height, most backs are bigger than that these days.

Cosmetically, Props have never been at the forefront of grooming and skin care.

The French front props of the 70s had faces only their mothers could love, I will never forget the great Bill McLaren referring to one of them as “Having a face like a bag of chisels”, the sales of post shave balm and moisturiser were not high in Mont de Marsan and Tarbes.

The man who straddled the evolutionary transformation period of the prop was Adam Jones.

I was fortunate enough to meet him at a  pre RWC 2015 media event, which took place in a capsule on the London Eye, as the two of us combined to challenge the safe weight capacity of the pod, I had plenty of time to glean from the great man himself, some of the dark arts, and technical subterfuge, that the front row warriors employ.

Sadly due to having the signed the Official Secrets Act, I cannot disclose this classified information.

In his autobiography entitled “Bomb” Adam Jones writes :

“My Mam says I looked like a prop when I emerged from the womb on 8 March 1981”.

“I was a big lump , my nose was squashed against my face, and she felt she had to warn visitors about how ugly I was ,before she allowed them to see me”

“Lucky for her I eventually blossomed into the handsome charming man that I am today”

The book written in conjunction with Ross Harries is a brilliant read.


So Props are arguably the antithesis of the spirit of rugby, at grass roots level they continue  in shape, size and personality as they always have done, and it is important that the law makers, in their quest for entertainment and financial reward, remember this.

Rugby must continue to be, at grass roots level, a game for all shapes, sizes and abilities .

If your head is loose, or tight, and the only reason your shorts have pockets in is to store your cigarettes for half time, then there should always be a place for you in the game.

The scrum still has ongoing issues but the laws as they are written, if refereed accordingly, would address  most of the current problems.

I bumped into Adam on a wet Friday night last season playing for Harlequins against Grenoble, in the European Challenge Cup semi final, which they won 30-16.

There is no doubt in my mind that his Wales career ended much too soon, his influence on and off the field is massive.

The last of a dying breed, at elite level, he is still going strong, the number one prop idol.

 

 

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