Loosehead prop – pure power and fearless

Tendai Mtawarira - The Zimbabwean born South African rugby legend

The loosehead prop doesn’t only carry the number 1 on his back but is also one of the first people you want to pencil in on your teamsheet. Some of the most dominant and recognizable number 1s in recent years have been Joe Marler, Joe Moody and the unmistakeable Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira.

Props don’t back down to anyone and they are always the most powerful players in your team. The physical demands on them often see them being the first players to be substituted in top-level rugby after about 50 minutes. Professional teams and international squads always play with two props in the starting lineup and two coming off the bench.

Attributes of a loosehead prop

There are a couple of exceptions to this, but most loosehead props fall into this category

  • Often start out as the more heavy-set players in your squad
  • Shorter of the two props and often one of the shortest in the pack of forwards
  • Exceptionally strong
  • The ability to physically dominate opponents
  • The highest volume of strength work for their team
  • High fitness levels to ensure quick recovery and participation in other facets

Using loosehead props at different age levels

One of the wonderful things in rugby is that just about everyone can play. Usually, at a younger age group level, the props start out as the kids who are heavier than all of their opponents.

As they are often not the fastest across the field coaches tend to push them into the front row. That doesn’t mean that they will remain a front row. One of the players my son grew up with started out as a prop and from around the age of 11, after dropping some weight, started playing inside centre, where he really stands out.

Although the scrums are not as heavily contested at a young age, it is important to teach a loosehead prop from an early age how to scrum correctly. The emphasis at this young age should be on body position, binding technique onto the opposition prop as well as to his own teammates.

The 2nd skill that the player must focus on is lifting technique in the lineouts. They will often be tasked with lifting the small flankers at first, but proper technique is important for their safety and that of the jumper.

As they progress through the age groups and get into their teen years, they need to start focusing on more and more strength work and fitness.

It is most crucial that players have the proper technique to start with, but they need to evolve their body to cope with the stresses of playing prop.

Their work across the park also becomes a lot more important and they are especially valuable at ruck time and getting over the advantage line. Their athleticism needs to be developed to a point where they are a more powerful version of the hooker and flankers, albeit a little bit slower across the park.