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'It freshens things up': Porter looking forward to life under Ireland's new regime

Leinster prop is hoping to establish himself as first choice for both province and country.

Porter featured in every match at the Rugby World Cup.
Porter featured in every match at the Rugby World Cup.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

WHEN YOU SIT down to analyse the role Andrew Porter played in Ireland’s 2019 World Cup campaign, there are two stats that immediately stand out.

While the versatile prop was one of nine Irish players to feature in all five games in Japan, he was also among a quartet in the squad that failed to make a single start over the course of the tournament.

Providing back-up to Leinster team-mate Tadhg Furlong on no fewer than four occasions, he also deputised for Dave Kilcoyne in the closing minutes of the pool stage win against Russia.

It is often a similar case for Porter at provincial level, where Furlong is normally the preferred choice at tighthead for the majority of Leinster’s big games.

“At the time, it’s a bit frustrating,” says of his time in Japan. “It’s the team first, I wasn’t really holding any grudges. I was just trying to put my best performance on when I came on in the games. It’s great to get the opportunity now to start a few games [with Leinster] and really get a good bit of game time under my belt.”

Given his age profile – he turns 24 today – Porter has time on his side as he bids to establish himself as a number one option for both Leinster and Ireland. Yet with so much at stake from now until the end of the season, he can’t afford to gaze too far into the future.

“I make goals week by week. If I’m starting or on the bench, I’m just trying to cement myself there. Try and put in my best performance. The next week, if I’m on the bench, I’ve to make a good impact off the bench. It’s small goals like that, because everyone is after that starting position. It’s just the amount of competition now that drives our performance.”

The pre-determined departure of Joe Schmidt following the completion of the World Cup has led to a change in the Irish coaching structure and, by extension, to Leinster’s as well. Joining head coach Andy Farrell in the new international set-up are Mike Catt (attack) and John Fogarty (scrum) with Welsh man Robin McBryde replacing the latter at the eastern province.

Porter acknowledges McBryde hasn’t made any drastic alterations since assuming his new role, but welcomes a fresh voice to compliment the working already being done by Leo Cullen, Stuart Lancaster and Felipe Contepomi.

Even though he offers the same seal of approval to Catt, he is nevertheless pleased to have a familiar face like Fogarty within the Irish camp.

“Obviously he [McBryde] was with Wales so it’s great to get a new perspective from a different coach. He was telling me things that they would have tried to target when they were playing us, so it’s great to hear those things.

“I think a change of personnel is quite good, it freshens things up. We have Mike Catt in the Irish set-up now and he can bring fresh, new ideas. It’s great for something like that to happen for the squad, especially. He [Fogarty] knows what I’m like and I know what he’s like. It’s good having him there.”

Before switching his attention to the forthcoming Six Nations campaign – which will be his third at senior test level – Porter will place all his focus on Leinster’s Champions Cup encounter with Benetton at Stadio Monigo on Saturday.

Heading into this final round pool encounter, Leinster are on a winning run that stands at 15 games for the 2019/20 season. The St Andrew’s College prodigy admits this formidable run of form, and the never-ending competition for places, ensures he is never lacking in motivation.

“It’s great to be winning. It’s one of the best feelings, really, when we’re on a streak like this. This is my club, this is my home and it’s great to be pushing for that number one spot. Everyone wants to play, everyone wants to be in that squad,” Porter explains.

“Even the young lads in here, we’ve used something like 51 players this season already. That’s a testament to our strength in depth and the young lads who are pushing through and putting pressure on the senior lads.”

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