Franks gets intel from English-based brother
The Franks brothers and the inside job. Sounds like a movie script.
Rather, this is the story of one brother helping another; one of many European-based All Blacks helping his former team by providing valuable local intelligence.
Ben Franks played 47 tests for the All Blacks, with the last the 2015 World Cup final. Based in England for the past three years, moving from London Irish to Northampton this season, it is clear where Franks’ loyalties lie.
The 34-year-old former Crusader was spotted at All Blacks training in London on Tuesday, and younger brother Owen has clearly made the most of the chance to tap into his knowledge of England looseheads Ben Moon and Alec Hepburn.
“I’m lucky to have my brother over here playing in the Premiership, so he’s had a bit of experience with both guys, so I had a chat to him,” Owen Franks said. “I’ve done my due dalliance for sure.”
Asked by a local scribe if Ben was a ‘spy in the camp’, Franks chuckled: “No, he’s not in the England camp. He just plays against them.”
So what did Franks glean? “Moon is really experienced. He’s played for Exeter for a long time, so he’s a pretty destructive scrummager. Playing 10-odd years in the Premiership is not easy.
“Hepburn has a sound technique and looks like he loves to have a crack so they’re both really tidy props.”
The All Blacks front-row club lost a member this week with Joe Moody’s lacerated eyelid, the result of a freak training accident during a lineout lift, confining him to an eye patch and out of action for six weeks. Franks hasn’t held back on Moody’s new look.
“We keep it pretty light hearted with Joe. If it was the other way around, he would be straight into you. Nothing is off limits with him.”
The leading figure of the front-row club, having now played 104 tests, Franks believes he is in the best shape for a northern tour after a late start to this season following Achilles surgery.
“I do feel really good, definitely different to previous end-of-year tours where you’re just scraping by.
“In a typical season, with the amount of games I’d normally play, I’d only be halfway through. It’s steadily improving the longer it gets from surgery, so I’ve been really happy.”
Franks also has no doubts new sidekick Karl Tu’inukuafe will handle the most challenging test of his career.
“He’s pretty nonchalant about the whole thing, takes it all in his stride. That’s the thing that probably impresses me the most. He’s relaxed but he can turn it on when he needs to. He’s a really good guy, too.
“It’s a big challenge. I don’t think I need to say anything to Karl. He’s played a lot of rugby in the French second division, which is renowned for scrummaging.”