When it comes to contact sessions, it’s a good idea to say well clear of second rows – at least according to Glasgow Warriors No.8 Ryan Wilson.
Speaking on The Offload podcast on RugbyPass, Wilson and former British and Irish Lions centre Jamie Roberts were asked about France lock Paul Willemse, the 6’7, 130kg second row who reportedly wasn’t allowed to partake in contact sessions when at Grenoble because he was injuring so many of his teammates. Speaking on The 42’s podcast last year, former Grenoble head coach Bernard Jackman, gave an insight into the uniquely aggressive specimen that is Willemse: “I actually signed Willemse for Grenoble… and he’s probably the meanest man I’ve ever seen in contact.
“I actually used to put my hands over my eyes. For most people at training, there’s a gentleman’s agreement sometimes but he knew only one way and that was 100 per cent. And he was about 136 or 137 kilos, and aerobically he wouldn’t have been great but anaerobically and power-wise he was unbelievable.”
Willemse is considerably leaner now, having cut down to 126kg last year, a weight he says he hasn’t been since he was 15 years old.
Former Scotland skipper Wilson however has another theory about why the Montpellier giant was injuring people, and it wasn’t just his size and strength.
“It’s got nothing to do with him being strong and powerful in training. Second rows are renowned for not being able to control their body parts in training and injuring people. They are the worst for it. The absolute worst.
“You get those players in the squad, doing a lineout pr even a little tackling drill, and they’re just complete idiots. Treading on your feet, cause they just can’t control themselves.
“They’re such big men, they just can’t rein it in. That’s what’s happening with him [Paul Willemse] there. I don’t think it’s because he’s battering people in training.”
Roberts seemed to concur, adding: “Can you imagine him fired up in a contact session? Steer clear.”
The Dragons centre was reminded of former Wales lock Brent Cockbain. “There was a lad. I never played with him for Wales, Brent Cockbain. They used to say about Brent Cockbain that he was similar.
“By all accounts no one would go near him in a contract session. Because again, elbows, knees, you catch one of them, the risk of injury is significantly higher.
“You’re right about the second rows. It’s only usually second rows who pop up in this conversation.”
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