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'Plenty of encouraging signs' from Leinster's Porter after switch to tighthead

The 21-year-old first burst onto the scene as a loosehead prop.

WHEN ANDREW PORTER burst into the wider Irish rugby public’s consciousness at the Junior World Championship last summer, there was understandable excitement.

Andrew Porter Porter has been playing tighthead in recent months. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The UCD man destroyed a number of opposition scrums from loosehead, showed eye-opening power with ball in hand and also demonstrated a penchant for adding bruising hits in defence.

Porter looked like a superb prospect in the number one shirt, and joined Leinster’s academy at the start of this season.

The issue was, and is, that Cian Healy, Jack McGrath and Peter Dooley have quite a bit left in the tank on Leinster’s loosehead side. However, with Mike Ross set to retire this summer, there is something of an opening on the tighthead side for Leinster.

Tadhg Furlong is the undisputed first-choice for province and country, but behind him the pecking order is less clear. Michael Bent has been backing him up, while Oisin Heffernan and Jeremy Loughman are also in Leinster’s set-up.

But recent months have seen Porter switch over to tighthead and already he has been stringing together some impressive performances in the number three shirt for club side UCD.

It turns out Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty is the man behind the move.

“It was more Fogs who felt he had the potential to make the transition, in terms of age profile and the group of players that we have. Physically, he’s in a good place and technically there’s a bit of work to do,” said Leinster head coach Leo Cullen.

“We’ll see how it goes, a number of players have worked on both sides. Jeremy Loughman has played loosehead and tighthead, Michael Bent, those players are invaluable to the squad and we’ll see how Andrew goes.

Andrew Porter is tackeld by Luca Sperandio Porter has already started a game for Leinster, but at loosehead. Source: Alfio Guarise/INPHO

“There’s plenty of encouraging signs with how he’s gone in training and a couple of games he’s played for UCD as well.”

Former St. Andrew’s College man Porter is well known as a freak in the gym, already one of the strongest in Irish rugby at the age of just 21.

Weighing in at more than 125kg, the powerful prop has all the physical attributes to make it at tighthead but now must go through the difficult process of learning the technical side of the position.

As he gets set to bow out of rugby in June, veteran tighthead Ross has been impressed by Porter’s early efforts to move to tighthead.

“He’s looking pretty good, to be honest,” said Ross. “The kid is really strong, Cian Healy is kind of looking at him a bit enviously. I shouldn’t have said that, he’ll hear that and be angry with me!

“He’s looking good. It’s quite tough to switch over to that side but he’s improving every week. You can see it, he’s figuring it out.

Andrew Porter throws the ball back after scoring a try Porter after scoring a try for club side UCD. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“A couple of training sessions, he found it tough. A very important moment in his life happened, he got his wings. That’s a huge developmental milestone in a young tighthead’s life.”

He got his wings, Mike?

“That’s when you get lifted off the ground. It hasn’t happened to him since. I’ve got them, Tadhg’s got them, Benty’s got them… every tighthead’s got them at some point. It’s a very important developmental milestone.

“It was Peter Dooley, he was quite proud of himself.”

All part of the journey for Porter, but as he gets set to move onto a senior professional contract next season the future looks bright.

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