Andrew Porter faces the Haka.
living the dream
From posing for a photo with Jonah Lomu to beating the All Blacks - Andrew Porter's journey
Andrew Porter is relishing the prospect of testing himself against the world’s best.

ANDREW PORTER HAS a photo stuck in a frame at home of himself and Jonah Lomu. It is from 2005, taken when New Zealand were on tour, even though Lomu wasn’t playing in the game.

It’s his first memory of the All Blacks. Until then, his only knowledge of Lomu was through a Playstation game that he used to play in his cousin’s house. But after meeting him, the obsession kicked in, his father educating him about Lomu’s style, videos dusted down and stuck in the cassette to show him exactly what he meant.

“His style was kind of unmatched in his era, it was nice watching him run over people,” Porter jokes, before adding. “Not so nice watching him against the Irish players.”

The first time Lomu ran over those Irish players was in 1995 at the World Cup, a time when Ireland didn’t really produce players like Andrew Porter, a ball-playing prop who is defying the odds to reach world class status in two different positions, loosehead and tighthead. “I try not to get too nostalgic when I’m preparing for a game. But it’s hard not to think of those memories growing up to games my dad brought me to when I was younger and things like that.

“Watching it transpire, to turn to where I am now through my exposure when I was younger, it’s crazy.”

jonah-lomu-with-denis-mcbride Billy Stickland / INPHO Lomu leaves Irishmen in his wake. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

People would have considered you crazy not too long ago if you thought in your head that one day Ireland might down the All Blacks. Well, they’ve done so twice in the last four meetings, Porter playing a cameo role in the 2018 win.

“That seems like a long time ago now but honestly I can remember everything about that day,” he says. “I had people coming up to me even up to a couple of weeks ago asking me ‘what did it feel like, what was the atmosphere in the stadium like?’ They were people who weren’t at the game, family members. It was a special day not just for us as a team but everyone who knows you, my family and the winder playing group as well. It is hugely exciting not just for us as a team but for us as a country.”

Sport being sport, setbacks followed. If 2018 was a golden year, 2019 was rotten.

The lesson was harshly learned, and on a personal level, that idea of something being offered and then stolen away was repeated for Porter last summer when selection for the Lions was followed by an injury.

“To be honest I had some really, really bad days after that,” says Porter. “At the time it is easy to get caught up in your emotions and your feelings.

andrew-porter British Irish Lions / INPHO Porter's Lions tour was over before it began. British Irish Lions / INPHO / INPHO

“It meant so much to me when I got my name read out. That being taken away was tough. It was gut wrenching stuff. I am nearly getting emotional thinking about it now. I put in a lot of work that time I was injured, especially over the summer. I got my weight down. I feel really good around the pitch because of that. I have come out stronger on the other side of the injury. At the time I had a lot of people around me, supporting me, people fighting my corner; my family and my girlfriend, people like that and obviously coaches and teammates reaching out to me, helping me along the way when I was injured. It puts things into perspective how people are around you when the chips are down.”

He dealt with it by getting back in the saddle, going back to work. Except there was a move to a new department, his life as a tighthead put on hold. “When I am not working I get very distracted, caught up in my emotions. I felt getting back to training and the normal swing of things over the summer was the best way for me to deal with that; get my head straight. Coaches were there for a bit of guidance. (It helped me) put things in perspective.

“It was kind of like therapy over the summer, when I had those tough days of knowing the tour was going on. I just put my head down and got my training done. Hopefully it pays dividends in the season to come. I’ve cut weight since last season. That’s all due to my training over the summer and I feel great.”

Today will test how far he has come.

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