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Dublin: 10°C Tuesday 11 May 2021

Porter ready to take flight after making the switch to tighthead

The Ireland prop gained invaluable experience in the Test arena on Saturday.

Porter won his third cap on Saturday.
Porter won his third cap on Saturday.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IT’S OFTEN SAID defeat can be more instructive than victory, and in Ireland’s case on Saturday a tougher-than-expected Test win over Fiji was far more beneficial for the auditioning cast than a romp would have been.

Joe Schmidt will have learned a great deal about those supporting players in his squad and it’s likely only Andrew Conway and Rhys Ruddock enhanced their case to be involved when Argentina’s visit rounds off the November series this weekend.

But for guys like Andrew Porter, the 21-year-old, 125kg prop, it was an invaluable learning curve in what was an incredibly physical and competitive contest.

“Yeah, it was a big step up,” he said, even more so when you consider he’s still learning his trade having made the switch from loosehead to tighthead less than 12 months ago.

“It’s always good to get your first start and first game in front of the home crowd. It was a big honour being able to pull on the green jersey here at the Aviva.”

Since bursting onto the U20s scene, Porter has long been earmarked as an exciting prospect and last summer made his international debut off the bench during Ireland’s win over the USA.

But with Leinster’s loosehead resources well stocked, the province’s scrum coach John Fogarty, in consultation with Joe Schmidt, suggested Porter go back to square one and start again in the number three jersey.

So with all that in mind, earning a third international cap on Saturday and his first at home is a remarkable achievement for a player who has enjoyed a rapid rise.

“I’m still learning,” he admits. “It’s still relatively new but I’m getting the hang of it a lot faster than I thought I would. Obviously being able to play these big, high-profile games with some of the best players in the world really pays dividends to my experience.

“I was quite hesitant [to switch] at the very beginning obviously. But once I got a bit of game time under my belt and trained week-in, week-out, I started becoming more confident with it.”

Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter and Ultan Dillane Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Throughout his schoolboy days, Porter’s raw power and physical size meant he destroyed opposition scrums and his natural ball-carrying ability translated into eye-opening performances for St Andrew’s College and Ireland U20s.

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Now that he’s made the switch to the other side of the scrum, the Leinster prop is understandably wary of losing his penchant to make explosive and devastating carries with ball in hand.

“It takes a lot more energy out of you,” he says of his new role. “You’re more so scrummaging against two people rather than one person like you would be at loosehead. It would take a bit more out of you in open play.

“It’s something I really have start working on, in terms of my conditioning and really getting used to hitting 10 scrums in the first half like it was on Saturday and being able to get around the park as well.

“It’s something I would like to bring to the table so, I want to be one of those ball carrying props and not that’s just there to scrum. I would like to excel my game in that sense.

“It’s really an international standard that you can’t be a one-trick pony almost. It helps a lot being able to do both.”

All of it is a learning curve. A step in the right direction.

“You have your good and bad days obviously and the bad ones stick out more in your memory,” he continues.

“It just keeps you pushing forward, keeps you wanting to learn more and more and get better every week. The more learning I get, it definitely helps getting your wings.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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