The Greatest Schoupp-man: Why Wallabies prop is built for the biggest stage

Thu, Sep 7, 2023, 6:24 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Blake Schoupp is built for the World Cup. Photo: Getty Images
Blake Schoupp is built for the World Cup. Photo: Getty Images

The job of the prop is often one done without the praises of their backline counterparts. Brumby and Wallaby Blake Schoupp is building it into the limelight.

It is often referred to as the ‘dark arts’, with terms such as ‘boring’ take on new meanings and only those brave enough to stick their heads where it shouldn’t belong have a true understanding of what’s going on.

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However, the 24-year-old is a natural showman and has the story that would make any Hollywood producer proud.

Schoupp, the brother of Titans centre Aaron, was discovered by Brumbies assistant now Wallabies line-out coach Dan Palmer when the former Wallaby went back to his old club Southern Districts.

The Brumbies were in need of props, with Scott Sio overseas whilst Allan Alaalatoa and James Slipper were amongst the stars slated for extended rest periods during the Super Rugby Pacific season.

“It was just a bit of an opportunity for me to get my foot in the door,” he told reporters before heading to France.

“I knew that like once I got down there, I'd be able to apply myself and try and end up getting a full-time gig. Luckily, things eventuated but it was just an opportunity, a little bit of a preseason contract which now, it's turned into something a bit longer term, which I'm really excited about.

“I can't thank Dan Palmer enough, for initially given me that opportunity, and now I'm looking to repay the club with a bit of success, hopefully in the next couple of years.”

This is where Schoupp stood out, earning a pre-season deal before impressing enough for Stephen Larkham to start him against the NSW Waratahs.

In the first scrum of the game, he monstered tighthead Archer Holz and won the penalty, immediately getting in his face to let him know.

15 minutes later, the same reaction and Schoupp stood tall and mean-mugged the team that had overlooked him as his Brumby teammates gave him the plaudits he deserved.

As the stage got bigger, so did Schoupp’s performances.

This was typified in the quarter-final when the Brumbies were forced to dig deep on their own line.

They were under severe pressure from the Hurricanes, who had brought on All Blacks Asafo Aumua, Owen Franks and Tevita Mafileo.

As the siren sounded, the visitors called for a scrum on the Brumbies line and suddenly GIO Stadium erupted.

Sure enough, it was Schoupp waving his arms at both sides of the ground, even if his Brumby teammates weren’t as confident as him.

“Honestly I was thinking ‘you better not stuff this up’, you’ve revved up the crowd and now you have to do a job” fellow Wallaby and Brumby Tom Hooper recalled. "I went up to him after the game and said ‘Schouppy, you’ve revving up the crowd, I was so nervous, like what if the scrum went down?’ and he was like ‘that was never going to happen.’”

Schoupp credits his environment for respiring his confidence and allowing him to express himself. “In those last couple of years in Southern Districts, I really got my confidence back and I was I able to express myself on the field,” he said. “When I got down to the Brumbies, they're really big on allowing you to express yourself whether that's through expressing how you play on the field and what skills you’ve got. “For me, it was just about being comfortable with how I play on the field and the coach has given me the confidence just to execute on the field and have fun at the same time.”

Given his nature, it’s easy to see why Eddie Jones was so fascinated by the prop, leading to the brick s***house nickname when he first got selected in April’s training camp. This nickname has grown legs and evolved over time, with Schoupp referred to as just brick or even ’Costco’ (because he’s a big Schoupp/shop). “He's got really good banter and he's really good to have a laugh with but at the same time, he's, a really good coach and he takes you under his wing,” Schoupp said about Jones. “He's taking me under his wing because of the whole brick shithouse comments and it's extended on to other little nicknames and that but I guess that's a good thing, because it means that he cares. “I'm just gonna soak it up for as long as possible because someone of his calibre, for me to be thinking that I'm having those conversations with him and having that kind of relationship is just crazy. “12 months ago, he didn't know who I was to now, it’s crazy to think that I am where I am, but now it's about taking it a step further and trying to continue to grow and do a job for the country and for him because at the end of the day, he's come back wanting to do a job and and we’re there to do it.”

Schoupp got a taste of Test football but knows a bigger job lies ahead of them against Georgia with James Slipper set to miss the match with a foot injury.

Georgia is a Rugby nation where scrums are taught as thoroughly as their ABCs.

Naturally, this is a challenge that Schoupp is embracing and welcoming head-on

“Yeah, all the chatter about them and how they liked scrums but we like it just as much if not more, you know what I mean?" he said.

“We're ripping in hard at training, continually working on that part of the game. There's no reason why we can't take it to them and hopefully dominate them in that area.

“It's been a crazy 12 months and every time anyone's brings it up, it's good to reflect but now that all celebration is done, it's now time to focus on the job.”