Owen Franks happy to top tackle count

TACKLE TOPPER: Owen Franks during the Bledisloe Cup test against Australia in Sydney.
TACKLE TOPPER: Owen Franks during the Bledisloe Cup test against Australia in Sydney.

Owen Franks was far from impressed by his inquisitor's accusation.

In fact, the All Blacks tighthead prop was feeling a tad slighted yesterday after a journalist questioned his workrate during the Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney.

Wearing the No 3 jersey on your back has never been the most glamorous job in world rugby and Franks doesn't expect any bouquets for performing his core roles at set piece.

But questioning his workrate?

Franks' confusion was understandable because last Sunday morning he was feeling pretty chuffed with himself after getting more than a few pats on the back from his coaches and team-mates alike.

“I thought it was just a really tough test match, but sitting down the next day someone mentioned I had got the highest tackle count,” he said. “That was pretty cool. I was pumped. I was equal with Richie [McCaw], so that's pretty cool for me.”

More precisely, Franks and his captain made 15 individual tackles each to lead an impressive All Blacks defensive effort during the 27-19 win over the Wallabies at ANZ Stadium.

“It's something I always work really hard on in the background, trying to get off the ground really quickly and get into that D line to get in those positions to make tackles,” he said. “I was pretty happy with that [15 tackles]. Thanks for noticing.”

Now Franks is smiling.

Defence is a source of pride in the All Blacks camp and in Sydney the Wallabies often found themselves staring at a wall of forwards who looked like they were on the startline of a 100m race.

First five-eighth Dan Carter often found himself six-wide of rucks as his pack lined up for the next assignment.

Franks says attitude, awareness and good coaching are the key.

“It's being aware how many people we need to put into the breakdown. Sometimes you can get over eager and put people in there to challenge that don't really need to be there,” he said.

“As a tight forward we are going to have to be really aware of that and have that same attitude. Stand up and look which way the play is going and make good decisions. Defence is all about attitude to get off the ground, get back in the line and want to make tackles and I guess the attitude in this team right now is pretty good.”

THE defensive role of the low numbers is often overlooked with media attention drawn to ball-carrying props such as the Chiefs' Sona Taumalolo.

Franks was part of a dominant Crusaders scrum during the Super Rugby season, but didn't feature much with ball in hand, leading some commentators to incorrectly question his workrate.

At test level it's a different story and though Franks says he'd love to run with the ball, it's often not what's best for the team.

“I do like carrying the ball and it is probably an area of my game I need to work on. I did carry more early in my career with the Crusaders, but I guess when you come into the All Blacks you have the best ball carriers in the country with the loose forwards and others, so I'm kind of down the food chain when it comes to mixing it up in the backs. But I'll always back my workrate and if there isn't anyone there then I will step up."

Incredibly, Franks is just 24, but has already racked up 35 tests since his debut in 2009 and 60 games for the Crusaders.

For that reason, he's relaxed about Wyatt Crockett coming into the front row at loosehead prop for injured veteran Tony Woodcock for tomorrow's return Bledisloe Cup test in Auckland.

“We'll do a few extra set-ups to get in the groove with him and Kevvy, but I've played 50-60-odd games with him [Crockett] in the Crusaders, so it's really not a big deal.”

The Dominion Post