Eric O’Sullivan keen to keep developing

Gone are the days in rugby when a prop was just picked for the weight he’d bring to pushing in the scrum.

While set piece ability is still a requirement the modern front rower, he is expected to have the silky ball skills of a outside back and the forging technique of a flanker at the breakdown.

Uini Antoni the French tight head, weighing in at just under 24 stone, is the perfect example.

In last Saturday’s Six Nations game against Ireland not only did Antoni give his opposite number a torrid time in the scrum he also showed his ability in the loose coming onto a crash ball and taking out three defenders in the build up to Antoine Dupont try after 67 seconds.

Eric O'Sullivan of Ulster. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Ulster prop Eric O’Sullivan is keen to develop his all-round game and believes a prop has have more in the locker than just scrummaging.

“You are expected to be able to scrum and then everything else you are expected to do to a good level as well,” reasoned O’Sullivan.

“So I don’t think it is the case now where you just get picked for being able to scrum, you definitely have to have more strings to your bow.

“We definitely spend more time with the forwards coach because maul and scrum is a big part of our game.

“Then there’s the skills we tag on at the end of our gym session so we probably get 15 minutes there every day.

“And at the end of the session Craig Newby (skills coach) is always around for anything extra that you want to do, and he’ll put in place anything that you want to work on and he’ll help guide you around that and he’ll come up with drills to help guys.”

One facet of the game O’Sullivan wasn’t expecting to learn was throwing into the lineout.

In Ulster’s last URC game against Connacht Ulster were without Rob Herring, Brad Roberts, John Andrew and Tom Stewart so O’Sullivan provided hooker cover on the bench.

“Obviously I’m not a hooker but I got in on captain run’s day and got through the menu with the callers, Al was good being me through the menu,” he explained.

“On the bench quite I was relaxed, I wasn’t worried about it too much if I got on. I was going to have to throw it and it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I had thrown one crocked in my opinion.

“It wasn’t worth worrying about because it would have got into my head more, so I was trying to stay relaxed.”

The fight for places and intensity in training have been two of the key reasons why the Ulster scrum has been going well this season.

“It is very competitive,” O’Sullivan added.

“On a short week we do one scrum session then on longer weeks we do two but typical it is one really big scrum session a week.

“It is very competitive you are trying to get on up on the other pack that you are up against.

“It is only natural because there are guys in that team that think they should be playing and deserve to be picked and you know they are going to be coming at you and likewise.

“If you are not in the squad you are trying to get one over to prove a point.

“Sometimes they are nearly more competitive than the games, but it is just a scrum you are not worried about running off the back of it you can just go as hard as you can.

“It is very competitive, and you are coming up against one of the best guys around (Marty Moore) in my opinion, it’s tough going.”