First of all, prop forwards consider themselves to be the cornerstone of any rugby team. As far as they are concerned the old adage “Forwards win matches, backs decide by how much” is only half true, and even then they’ll only grudgingly concede that the term “forwards” might sometimes include other members of the tight five.
It’s true that, at the top end of the game, good props (and especially tightheads) are in huge demand and can almost name their price. And these days at junior club level the requirement for 1st XVs to have front row cover on the bench means that, lower down the club, genuine props are a rare commodity to be fought over by 3rd, 4th and Vets’ team captains.
So what does it take to be a prop? Here are a few essentials:
- be born the right shape. Players who graduate to prop from other positions are few and far between. The vast majority were put there on their first appearance on a rugby pitch purely by virtue of their build and have remained there ever since;
- be born with the right mentality. “Musn’t grumble” just isn’t part of a prop’s make-up. Appropriate topics for a prop's evil mutterings include (without limitation): the opposition’s scrummaging technique; referees’ decisions and/or parentage; second rows’ binding; flankers’ (non) pushing; backs being tackled behind the gainline; and, in particular, fly halves kicking out on the full;
- get a nickname – something along the lines of “Tank”, or “Nutter” or “Rhino”. Very few props are successful without one;
- follow orders to the letter. Hanging on at a scrum with your head half way up your arse requires blind devotion to duty. A military background can help;
- never, ever, be tempted to kick the ball. You’ll just look stupid.
Of course there are other typical qualities, usually involving copious amounts of beer and a penchant for depraved post-match antics, but without the above essentials you’ll be nothing more than a prop wannabe.
Hope that helps…