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Last year's defeat in Edinburgh still rankles in Grand Slam-chasing Ireland squad

10 straight Test wins for Ireland set them on course for a mouth-watering meeting with Gregor Townsend’s impressive side.

Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

THREE WINS FROM three leaves Ireland as the only side capable of winning the Six Nations by way of a Grand Slam this year, quite a shift in momentum compared to a 2017 campaign defined by opening day defeat.

Whether that 27-22 loss to Scotland was fuelled by a delayed bus, brilliant Scottish wide threats or a bit of both might be an old argument for the fortnight ahead, but for an Ireland team growing less and less accustomed to defeat, the result will still rankle.

Andrew Porter didn’t earn his first international cap until last June, so wasn’t involved in last year’s helter-skelter tournament-opener. Yesterday’s win over Wales was his first Six Nations start, but even if Tadhg Furlong’s hamstring issue clears up with another two weeks of recovery, Porter will hope to make another big impact against Gregor Townsend’s men to strengthen Ireland’s title hopes and exact a little revenge.

“We owe them one from last year. So we have to make these home games count, especially the one coming up. We’ll take our learnings from this game and start to focus on that,” said the tighthead.

Greig Laidlaw celebrates after kicking a penalty to win the game Source: Craig Watson/INPHO

Though Ireland are the last remaining unbeaten team in the Championship after England’s shock defeat in Murrayfield yesterday, they will have to beat the two remaining title rivals (Scotland and England) to seal the Slam — though the trophy is still attainable through alternative permutations.

“We can’t be looking ahead to a Grand Slam, but that’s the ultimate goal. We’ll have to take the game as it comes,” Porter adds

Still just over a year removed from his switch to tighthead, Porter is excelling on the big stage. He credits yesterday’s performance to some shepherding from his captain, as well as a few calming measures.

“Rory Best would sit me down and we were talking all week. That’s what you need from a captain, talking and instilling confidence in all your players. Along with Tadhg Furlong, he was helping me through the week.

Andrew Porter after the game Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“I tried to get all my nerves out of the way early in the week when I found out (about starting). I had a bit of butterflies before the game, but once it kicked off I think they flew away a bit.

It’s all about breathing I think. Then just taking in the atmosphere today with 50,000+ fans. Helps settle the nerves.”

Having been required to play 78 minutes against Italy after Furlong’s early injury, Porter impressed through 66 minutes yesterday. His scrummaging was sound while his power and mobility in the loose is an invaluable weapon.

The St Andrew’s product has long been posting impressive numbers on the weight-lifting floor of the gym, but his GPS scores must also be showing signs of extremely impressive stamina.

“I think the stereotypical prop is gone now, you’re expected to get around the park a lot more now.

“It’s something I try to work on a lot, more and more fitness with more scrums. It’s different from the loosehead side, takes a lot more out of you.”

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Sean Farrell

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