All Black prop brothers Owen and Ben Franks reflect on brawls, friendship and fun
The sight of Ben and Owen Franks pumping tin within hours of the 2011 World Cup final drew startled looks among the patrons of an Auckland gym.
While their team-mates were sleeping off hangovers or lying in bed savouring the memory of winning the Webb Ellis Cup at Eden Park, the Franks boys were grinding through their sets in the weights room.
So it would be no surprise that if the All Blacks win the World Cup final in London on November 1, the brothers may decide to spend what remaining time they have together to once again truck down to the weights rack for a workout.
- Age: 31
- Born: Melbourne
- Position: Prop
- Super team: Hurricanes
- Test debut: v Ireland, 2010
Whatever happens, their routine of eating and training together and keeping each other company is about to come to an end for the two props.
Following the global tournament, Owen will return home to Christchurch, while Ben remains in the English capital to join London Irish.
It won't just be the end of an era for the Franks family, it will also pull the pin on one of the more unique partnerships in the All Blacks squad.
- Age: 27
- Born: Motueka
- Position: Prop
- Super team: Crusaders
- Test debut: v Italy, 2009
Ben, 31, might have clouted Owen, who is four years younger, if he got a bit mouthy when he was a kid but as the years ticked by, and Owen got much bigger, the fighting and sibling rivalry tapered off.
"Ben would try to bait me into fighting him because I was so much weaker and smaller but as I got older I started to compete a little bit more," Owen said.
It didn't stop entirely – the day they had a brawl at a Crusaders training a few years ago is still fondly remembered by their team-mates – but the bust-ups weren't going to prevent them being mates.
Who won? "We were both pretty crap at fighting," Owen explained. "I don't even know if we touched each other."
They don't fit the stereotype of a prop being a beer monster who survives on a diet of deep-fried food either.
"We're not big drinkers, so we didn't really have that problem," Ben said when asked if they were hung-over after the 2011 World Cup final. "Some people like to read a book or go for a walk but it's nice to just go to the gym. It's (a way of) de-stressing I suppose."
Ben's wife Jenna and daughter Annabel have already relocated to London to prepare for the next adventure in his professional career and in recent days they have visited Hampton Court, near the All Blacks' hotel in Teddington, and the Tower of London.
When asked to choose between Argentina and South Africa as the toughest team to scrum against, Ben was non-committal: "Pain is pain. It's all painful. For a front-rower, I can't think of an easy day no matter who the opposition is."
Ben said he if he endured a tough night of scrummaging, it could take up to four days for the soreness in his upper body to disappear and that, in turn, made everyday chores difficult.
"Sometimes driving. Turning, reversing, parking," he joked. "You are just generally stiff. You try to move around as much as you can to get the body going but some days are harder than others."
The two brothers hope to play together again but that may not be possible. For now it is about making the most of what remains.
"I know the end is coming," Ben said. "I am just trying to give everything I have got for this one last time."