Ranking the 5 Best Props in World Rugby Right Now

Danny Coyle@dannyjpcoyleFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2015

Ranking the 5 Best Props in World Rugby Right Now

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    They can push the most weight around in the gym, make the biggest dents in the tackle bags and are generally best avoided when it comes to drinking contests and practical jokes.

    The denizens of the front row put their heads in places no other player would dream of putting his feet, and they are the men who provide the platform for the rest of the team to perform.

    If the props fail in their basic jobs of scrummaging and lineout work, the team will struggle to function. And these days they are also required to make a sizeable contribution to the tackle count for their side.

    Perhaps, in these days of rising salary caps and larger contracts, their value is best underlined by the fact that in many cases they are the highest paid players at their clubs, as the Guardian's Paul Rees illustrated when quoting the reported £510,000 per year paid by Gloucester to John Afoa.

    Good props, you might say, are worth their sizeable weight in pounds, euros or whichever denomination tickles their fancy.

    Here are the five best in the business.

5. WP Nel

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    Scotland moved quickly to cap South African born tighthead WP Nel as soon as he qualified to wear the thistle, and the former Cheetah has repaid them with a string of impressive performances.

    The 29-year-old has established himself as their premier tighthead and will provide a tough examination for the home nations in the upcoming Six Nations.

4. Scott Sio

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    Australian Scott Sio boosted his reputation hugely with his performances at the Rugby World Cup.

    The Waratahs man was named on a list compiled by Foxsports.com.au of players the Wallabies cannot afford to lose to the riches of Europe when his contract with the ARU runs out next year, describing him thus:

    "The 24-year-old started the Test season behind James Slipper and finished at the World Cup as not only Australia’s premier prop, but one of the best loosehead props packing down in the business."

    Sio was in particularly destructive mood against England's Dan Cole as they knocked the hosts out of the tournament, and he was equally impressive a week later against Wales' Samson Lee.

3. Owen Franks

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    If the All Blacks had a perceived weakness before the 2015 World Cup, it may have been in their scrum.

    Teams considered that here was an area they might be able to take the world champions on at and come out on top.

    But their front row dealt with every assault, in no small part thanks to the rock on the tighthead side that was Owen Franks.

    Franks combines a powerful scrummaging ability with the hands and brains every All Black possesses as ingrained basics.

2. Tendai Mtawarira

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    The man they call The Beast matches awesome scrummaging strength with hurtful ball-carrying ability.

    Mtawarira has been the first-choice loosehead since making his debut against Wales in 2008 and at still only 30 years old, could well be in line for 100 caps, no mean feat in the harsh environs of international front rows.

1. Ramiro Herrera

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    Ramiro Herrera established himself as one of the world's most destructive scrummagers at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

    The Telegraph's Steve James named him in his team of the tournament, describing him as an "absolute beast."

    The 26-year-old is also a powerful ball-carrier and a major weapon for the Pumas. He could make a big impact for the Argentine Super Rugby side in 2016.