Likely England tighthead for the World Cup, Dan Cole took time out to tell us the toughest tightheads he played against

They’ll be the first to tell you, but the tighthead is one of the most important positions on the pitch. The anchor of the pack and a crucial cog at the set-piece, they’re now expected to hit rucks, dominate the contact area and make turnovers.

We spoke to one of the world’s best tightheads in 50-cap England No 3 Dan Cole about five of the toughest opponents he’s faced…

Carl Hayman New Zealand, 45 caps

“When I started propping at 18, Carl Hayman was the man. Technically he’s spot-on. At 6ft 4in, he’s tall for a prop but he knows how to use his size, he stays straight, scrummages legally and has a huge work rate around the field. When he came to Newcastle, he was a revelation, I think he was playing 10 in some games. What I mean by that is he was happy to stand at first receiver, which was unheard of for a tighthead. He was the pioneer of an all-round game for tightheads. A thoroughly modern prop.”

Carl Hayman

Giant among men: Carl Hayman is revered as a tighthead in the game

Nicolas Mas, France, 78 caps

“Unlike Carl Hayman, Nicolas Mas is a lot shorter, under 6ft and much lighter, more like 110 kilos but physically he was very, very strong. He would get in awkward positions under the hooker, and I can tell you they were difficult positions to get into. It takes a lot of grit to do what he has done for such a long time and I’ve seen him destroy a fair few scrums in his time. Mas is proper old school, the angles he props at. He’s a typical French prop forward in a way – they love their scrummaging.”

Nicolas mas

Old-school: Nicolas Mas has been the bedrock of the French scrum for a decade

Julian White, England, 51 caps

Julian White was a hard man. Coming through the academy at Leicester as a kid, there was Castro, but Whitey was the one we all looked up to. He’d talk to us about what was most important as a tighthead. First and foremost it was the scrummage. He was the standardbearer for that. Being around him, you saw the attitude he would bring. He set that bar for us at the Tigers. Whitey saw the scrum as confrontational place, a platform where he could influence the game. He wanted to dominate the opposition and had a real pride in his scrummaging. He showed me you could win a game up front.”

Julian White

Enforcer: Julian White saw the scrum as a place for confrontation

Owen Franks, New Zealand, 68 caps

“Another All Black and while Owen Franks wasn’t in Hayman’s league as a scrummager, although technically he is still very solid. He’s given the All Blacks set-piece stability/solidity over many years. As a player, he’s comfortable with the ball-in-hand, he’ll throw a miss pass if he want to, and he gets through his work in the loose. A genuine all-court tighthead.”

Owen Franks

Modern prop: Owen Franks is solid at the set-piece and dynamic in the loose

Pieter de Villiers, France, 69 caps

“I watched Pieter de Villiers from afar, playing for Stade Francais and France for many years. I think he grew up in South Africa but played for France he was in a really powerful front-row that dominated. If you looked closely, he would set up in a funny angle and looked really awkward to prop against. I remember him going over to South Africa with France and destroying the Springbok scrum over there, which doesn’t happen often. He was a formidable unit.”

Pieter de Villiers

Destroyer: Pieter de Villiers was a very technical, powerful No 3

Dan Cole was appearing alongside his England team mates at the launch of the innovative England Rugby World Cup shirt #CommittedtoEngland. Visit