Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Relentless Franks returns to rev up scrum

Owen Franks will play his 50th test at Eden Park against the Springboks. Picture / Getty Images
Owen Franks will play his 50th test at Eden Park against the Springboks. Picture / Getty Images

Taming Owen Franks. It's a tough gig, at least the All Blacks hope so tomorrow when they front the Springboks.

The tighthead prop will play his 50th test as his team tangles with the Boks who are also undefeated in this year's Rugby Championship.

Away from his day job, Franks has been pacified with an engagement to Emma and accelerated wedding plans but this week is all business - rugby work, lines, angles, foot placements and power for the scrum contest with Tendai Mtawarira and his buddies.

Greg Somerville played both sides of the All Black frontrow but primarily at tighthead for 66 caps and Olo Brown pumped out 56 matches in the No3 jersey.

Now Franks, at a youthful 25, is about to tick over his half century at Eden Park. There will not be any fuss, no bat-waving or jersey flinging from the prop, just the sort of reaction Tony Woodcock delivered when he ticked over 100 tests at loosehead in Wellington.

They are both men with a "get in and get on with it" attitude, blokes who prefer their own company or that of the gym equipment, as they eye their next rugby assignment.

Franks and older brother Ben own a gym in Christchurch and feel deprived if they don't get their daily dose of barbells, burpees and bodybuilding.

Last week Franks junior rested a sore groin rather than tangle with the Pumas. Instead Charlie Faumuina went out at tighthead prop and without a unified formation, the All Blacks felt some heat from the visitors.

In these new age times of the prolonged get ready instructions and ball delivery, there is no advantage for the side putting the ball in. Instructions for the referee have spoiled all that. It would be better if he placed the ball on the ground and told the sides to form a scrum over the top and then push.

The Springboks come with about a tonne of kilos in their scrum while the All Blacks can muster 897kg pack weight for that part of tomorrow's contest. Technique, weather and the decisions of referee Romaine Poite are the wildcards.

Faumuina has the talent to make a go at tighthead, Franks has done the business. Five seasons of test rugby against some rugged hombres will help. So, too, a relentless mind and bags of courage.

Now he and all frontrowers are learning how to best use the new scrum laws, how to exert the most heat on rivals and with Franks back in his favoured No3 jersey, the All Blacks will feel a touch more secure about their scrum.

- NZ Herald

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