World Rugby Top 5 Players Series: Props - Ruck

World Rugby Top 5 Players Series: Props

In the land of the 2023 Rugby World Cup host nation, props are known as ‘la piliers’ in a rather descriptive recount of the role. The pillars that support the scrummaging foundation, props also elevate their loose forward teammates to new heights at the line-out.

Without a strong loosehead and tighthead at the base of a team, a side can collapse and crumble under the pressure. Historically, props would focus their energy on the set-piece, with short drives to empty the tank and rest up when the ball was fizzed around the park.

However, the modern conditioning of today’s athletic props sees them contribute far more in the loose, whilst also maintaining enough energy reserve for the enduring shifts in the scrum. It is rare to see a prop play a full 80 minutes due to the exhausting demands which their position brings, with the most successful sides having a equally capable prop amongst the replacements.

South Africa are today’s best example of a side that have equally talented props in the starting XV, and amongst the replacement ‘bomb squad’. We will certainly discuss the Springboks in this article, who have the best front row in the world today. New Zealand have always took pride in their props, with the likes of Joe Moody, Owen Franks and Tony Woodcock being integral parts in the Rugby World Cup triumphs of 2011 and 2015.

The legendary Springbok Os Du Randt was comfortably the world’s best prop, when South Africa lifted the Rugby World Cup in 2007. The South African would be regarded as the greatest ever, if it was not for the efforts of England great, the ‘Fun Bus’ Jason Leonard.

So, as we head into the second round of the 2023 Rugby World Cup this weekend, lets continue our list of the world’s best players in each position. This article will include both sides of the scrum, with the loosehead talents heavily outweighing the tighthead picks at four to one. With honourable mentions to consider, here are the top five props in rugby today.

1. Cian Healy – Ireland and Leinster (Loosehead Prop)

It is rare to see a player in today’s game enter into the conversation of rugby’s all time greats. French maestro Antoine Dupont teeters on legendary, yet the scrum half has a long way to go before he’s accepted into the company of Sir Gareth Edwards. Richie Mo’unga is a phenomenal talent, yet does the All Blacks playmaker belong amongst the likes of Jonny Wilkinson or Dan Carter?

Ireland prop Cian Healy is one such player that breaks the mould, and deserves his involvement within the discussion of the best to ever pack down the scrum. Healy is in no doubt approaching the twilight of his career, with his years as the world’s best loosehead prop stretching from 2011 to 2020. Healy earned his international debut in 2009 against Australia, and immediately impressed his Head Coach Declan Kidney.

At just 20-years-old Healy was a Pro12 Champion, as Leinster claimed the 2008 title before adding the Champions Cup a year later. The 2009 victory over Northampton was the first of three European titles in quick succession for Healy, as the Dubliners returned to the pinnacle of European rugby back-to-back in 2011 and 2012. Once Healy got a taste for silverware, little could stop the loosehead from collecting winners medals.

The lifelong Leinsterman has accrued a total of seven Pro12 (United Rugby Championship) titles to date, and has since added a fourth European title in an unforgettable year. 2018 was the peak of Healy’s career, with the prop being first choice for Ireland and Leinster, as he won the Pro12 league, Champions Cup and Six Nations Grand Slam within a matter of months. This Grand Slam counted as Healy’s third out of four Six Nations titles, as the loosehead established the foundations of Declan Kidney’s, Joe Schmidt’s and now Andy Farrell’s triumphant Irish pack.

Like every other iconic Irish player, the Rugby World Cup has been the one piece of silverware that has evaded Healy throughout his career. An unfortunate injury halted Healy’s hopes for a 2023 Rugby World Cup winners medal, should Ireland bring the Web Ellis trophy to the Emerald Isle for the first time. However, the 35-year-old has no plans to follow in Johnny Sexton’s path to retirement as of yet.

Healy’s legacy is secured, with his status solidified amongst the all time propping greats. The Irishmen is his nations’ most capped active player, with 125 caps and counting. Healy sits just three caps adrift of the great Ronan O’Gara, and would need to run out for eight more appearances in order to surpass Brian O’Driscoll’s record of 133 test caps. Healy would views these goals as viable, with one last ride on the horizon to retain the Six Nations Grand Slam crown.