The Benetton and Pumas prop has a knack for the fine score – we celebrate the big units scoring

Thomas Gallo and the art of prop tries

It’s a ruck on the retreat – messy stuff. But with no competition on the floor, Argentina prop Thomas Gallo picks and looks up. There’s a wide-open gate to run through…

Fittingly, this World Rugby U20 Championship match is being played at Rosario’s Racecourse ground. From his own 10m line, Gallo flies. The junior Pumas are facing France, a side studded with a few stars of the future, but by the time the loosehead thunders into their 22, scrum-half Quintin Delord is sloughed off and 15 Alexandre de Nardi is left pondering why he couldn’t get anywhere near this front-rower.

If the full-back is in disbelief, he isn’t the only one. Referee that day is Christophe Ridley, who reflects now: “I remember just casually following the play, expecting a tackle at any moment. Then when he broke the first tackle, the stadium erupted and I realised if I didn’t get a shift on myself, I was going to be left on the halfway line.

“He was absolutely electric. Even as a referee it was difficult not to smile and just appreciate how brilliant that moment was, certainly one of the highlights of that tournament for me.”

That was back in 2019. He was already in scoring form in that U20 tournament but since then Gallo, the 22-year-old a son of Tucumán, has cultivated an art of scoring tries.

Earlier this month he made his full Test debut against the Wallabies, coming off the bench to nab a brace in defeat. As the Contexto Tucumán website wrote of that clash at the start of October, “Almost all Argentine rugby players will want to forget the Gold Coast night. Not Thomas Gallo, who on his first night as a member of Los Pumas showed his qualities and was highlighted by all the press.”

Last week, for Benetton Treviso, he was at it again.

Gallo is in the Argentina squad for their northern tour, where they will face France, Italy (with the showdown at Gallo’s home ground, Benetton’s Stadio Comunale di Monigo), and Ireland. With quick ball, Gallo’s low-centre-of-gravity running and his fondness for the spin move could become threats.

We certainly love seeing the big units running free. And for all the clichéd jokes about the distance run lengthening in every retelling of the tale, players clearly love it too.

Earlier in October, Harlequins prop Will Collier broke a 134-game drought, by throwing a sensational dummy and hammering for the line.

As he told The Times of his try: “I slightly jokingly do it (dummy) in training every now and again, and I have been doing it for most of my career. Some of my old team-mates, like Chris Robshaw and Dave Ward, texted me: ‘Bloody hell, mate, the amount of times you tried to sell that in training, finally you’ve managed to do it on the big stage’.”

And back in February, Bristol Bears Women’s loosehead Simi Pam ran one in from the deep, scorching past the Sale Sharks cover after shrugging off two tackles. After that match the score went viral, with global stars like Tendai Mtawarira hitting up the Bear on social media.

In an interview on the Good, the Scaz and the Rugby podcast, Pam laughed about it, adding: “What I’m most proud about that Sale try was how viral it went and it kind of transcended women’s rugby.”

So is there a knack to scoring worldies, as a front-rower? Edinburgh and Scotland’s WP Nel is no stranger to a long-ranger, and in 2013 raced to a memorable score against Leinster…

“I have no idea what through my mind at that stage!” the tighthead laughs of that show-and-go score. “It probably does happen in front of you and you think ‘right, this is an opportunity and if it comes off, it comes off, but it doesn’t…’ I wouldn’t say as a prop you think on the pitch at that moment, ‘this is an opportunity to score a long-range try’.”

Nel discusses how, in 2021, props displaying skill shouldn’t shock us anymore. Forwards kicking shouldn’t be a taboo; around-the-world dummies and darts are for everyone. And he goes on: “I just look at the guy we are talking about (Gallo), and he actually needs to work hard for his tries. There are a couple of people who could have tackled him before the line.

“It comes down to strength and the ability to run and that’s probably the biggest thing. Props have become so mobile these days and (it’s best) if you’re strong, if you are mobile and can still do the job in scrums.

“It’s not that old school, like back in the day where you need to be massive to hold the scrum up for your guys. Now you can be mobile and you and I do think that’s where the modern game is going. If you’re still very strong but can run the ball, that’s a plus point for you.

“If you look at the props now there are a lot more mobile. Look at me, the weight I’ve shed from where I was like six, seven years ago, just to be more mobile and do what other props are doing. I got a lot leaner and probably lost around 7kg just to get around the pitch more.”

According to Benetton team-mate Seb Negri, Gallo’s work-rate and speed on the training paddock are almost as evident as his smile off the park. He is a prop, the back-rower suggests, who enjoys going to work. He’s not shy of a gun workout in the gym either, though what comes up time and again is the Argentine flyer’s ability to get low to the ground, either on the run or in the scrum.

For Nel, he would always rather a prop who is excellent in the set-piece who has to work hard at the carrying, rather than the other way around. But with someone like Gallo, 22, the possibilities are evident.

Benetton boss Marco Bortolami can see that. As he explains to Rugby World of his young loosehead: “Thomas is a very competitive player, very explosive and because of his size, he has a great balance in contact. He needs to improve his consistency in set-piece and around the field, but he is young so has plenty of potential! He is quiet but smart!”

Gallo will have the biggest stage of his career should he add to his one Pumas cap this November. His work in the tight will be under scrutiny like never before. But secretly, we’ll all be hoping he can cut loose too…
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