Welcome back to my “Top 5” rugby series. This 13-article series has been inspired by countless conversations among friends or other fans over the years and will see me selecting my top 5 men’s rugby players who are currently playing at each position.
With all of these lists, I am picking who I feel are the best 5 at each position, so there may be some surprises in there as I select the players who I feel are most appropriate to the position despite there being multiple ways to play many positions. I try to watch rugby from a broad range of leagues as well as plenty (or too much, depending how you ask) of Test matches, but I appreciate that I still have some blind spots, while a list like this is subjective; so while the majority of each article will be my list, I also set my good friend and occasional collaborator Phil the challenge to select his top 5, which I will include below. I’d also love to hear your picks, so go ahead and post them in the comments!
Today, we complete our front row by looking at tighthead props.
To put it kindly, Furlong is a freak of nature. A strong scrummager, the Irishman is devastating in the loose, able to crash through a defence like a charging rhinoceros, but also with the footwork to beat a man and a pass that a fly half would be proud of.
If you’re building a fantasy rugby team, you’d be a fool to leave out Tupou. The “Tongan Thor” is an absolute behemoth and very much a physical threat, but what really sets him apart is his pace and his engine. By prop standards, he’s a cheetah, which creates a matchup nightmare, while he has the stamina to keep going long after his fellow props have been replaced. One of the few world class players in the Wallabies team.
How lucky are Ireland and Leinster to be able to select both Furlong and Porter! He may not quite have the skillset of his teammate, but he scrummages as well and can also carry effectively and show some impressive handling skills. But what is also impressive is how he has solidified himself as a legitimate Test option at both tight and loosehead, giving extra tactical flexibility.
Let me start by admitting that of the 5 men on my list, Malherbe is arguably the least influential in the loose. However, the first role of a prop is to dominate at the scrum, which is exactly what Malherbe does. The third member of South Africa’s “Bomb Squad” to make this list, Malherbe’s excellence at the set piece is a vital part of the Springboks’ recent success.
He’s cut out the temper tantrums and this more experienced and mature Kyle Sinckler earns the final spot on this list. A solid scrummager, Sinckler is also a big factor in the loose when used to his full extent (hint hint Eddie). An absolute wrecking ball when carrying, you also certainly wouldn’t want to find yourself running down his channel when he’s in defence.
Phil’s top 5: Taniela Tupou, Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter, Kyle Sinckler, VIncent Koch
Who makes your top 5?