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Ireland still open to prospect of Porter switching to loosehead as Furlong returns

The 25-year-old has been crucial at tighthead for Leinster and Ireland in the past six months.

Porter could switch back to loosehead with Ireland.
Porter could switch back to loosehead with Ireland.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

IRELAND REMAIN OPEN to the possibility of tighthead prop Andrew Porter switching back to the loosehead side of the scrum.

Head coach Andy Farrell has previously flagged the potential move and indicated that the return of frontline tighthead Tadhg Furlong from injury for the 2021 Six Nations may give Ireland scope to use Porter at loosehead.

25-year-old Porter came through underage rugby as a loosehead, starring for the Ireland U20s in that position as they reached the 2016 World Championship final.

However, he converted to tighthead with Leinster during the 2016/17 season at a time when Mike Ross was heading into retirement and the province’s loosehead depth chart featured both Cian Healy and Jack McGrath.

Porter has played virtually all of his senior professional rugby as a tighthead – often as back-up to Furlong – although he did cover the loosehead side for Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, playing there twice during warm-up games and coming off the bench there against Russia during the tournament.  

With Furlong having been sidelined since February of last year due to injury, Porter has been a key man at tighthead for Leinster and Ireland over the past six months but Farrell hasn’t forgotten about his potential to be an explosive loosehead prop.

The Ireland boss likely imagines how much damage Porter and 28-year-old Furlong could do in the same starting XV together, with both still relatively young for props.

Farrell has opted to name only two looseheads in his Six Nations squad in the shape of 33-year-old Healy and 32-year-old Dave Kilcoyne – who is also back after missing last autumn’s campaign through injury. 

tadhg-furlong Furlong is set to return for Leinster on Saturday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Porter is one of three tightheads along with Furlong and the uncapped 22-year-old Tom O’Toole – whose potential Farrell is a big fan of.

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Furlong is due to make his long-awaited return for Leinster against Scarlets on Saturday before joining Ireland camp on Sunday but his lack of match fitness means Porter is likely to start at tighthead against Wales in Ireland’s opening Six Nations game in Cardiff on Sunday 7 February.

However, Farrell has hinted that Porter may be looked at on the loosehead side again at some stage.

“There are all sorts of different scenarios that can unfold regarding the front row,” said Farrell yesterday.

“We’ve talked openly for some time about Andrew Porter but, at the same time, making sure that we are fair and proper to him, so he’s crystal clear whether he’s going tighthead or loosehead.

“Obviously there’s an option now, if Tadhg does come back through, that we can reassess that.

“Obviously Tadhg is going to take a little bit of time to get his feet back under the table so we’re trying to leave it open enough to mix things up a little bit along the way.” 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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