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'He's remarkably resilient, and I think his best years are ahead of him'

Andrew Porter has been praised for his response to being ruled out of the Lions tour.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

STUART LANCASTER HAS praised Andrew Porter for how he has reacted to being ruled out of the British and Irish Lions tour through injury.

The 25-year-old tighthead will miss the tour to South Africa due to a toe injury sustained during Leinster’s Rainbow Cup defeat to Glasgow last Friday, a devastating blow for a young player who enjoyed a superb season with both Leinster and Ireland.

And Lancaster says that while it’s been a difficult few days for Porter, he has been hugely impressed by his attitude around the squad following the news.

“He is very tough, Andrew, physically a tough guy, but also mentally very tough,” Lancaster said.

“I didn’t really sleep that well on Saturday night thinking about it. I am just so gutted for him, so gutted. For a young lad to have worked so hard to achieve his dream, what it meant to his family and friends and all the people who supported him, and then to miss out now in the way that it happened, almost innocuously really. It was nothing really.

“It’s not like it’s an injury that is going to keep him out for ages, but it’s enough to keep him out of the tour.

“We’re all absolutely gutted for him really. But he’s in today, he’s in the review, he’s got a smile on his face, he’s been positive with the lads, everyone has put their arms around him and he’s going in to see the specialist on Wednesday I think. 

I don’t think words can really express how disappointed we all were when we heard the news. But yeah, he’s remarkably resilient, and I do think his best years are ahead of him. He’s got more international honours to come in the next four years and another Lions series to target, and maybe even one four years after that. It wouldn’t surprise me.”

Lancaster added that Leinster are likely to rest their Lions stars for Friday’s final game of the season against the Dragons, where 1,200 fans will be welcomed back to the RDS.

And captain Johnny Sexton could also sit the game out, despite returning to contact training last week after being stood down due to a series of head injuries.

“I think Johnny is probably in the same category as those Lions players, really,” Lancaster said. 

“We need to give him the best chance of being 100% right and he’s training fine, training really well. We want to put him in the best position so that he is 100% flying if A: Ireland need him, or which I don’t know if they do or don’t for his summer series, and also B: if the Lions come calling.

“So again, he’s probably in the same category as Jack (Conan), Tadhg (Furlong) and Robbie (Henshaw) really. 

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“Harry Byrne is fit as well. So that’s the other factor with a game like this this weekend, someone like Harry we want to see as well.”

Scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park has also returned to training following a hamstring injury, while Adam Byrne is due to return to training this week following a long-term hamstring issue. Byrne hasn’t played for Leinster since December 2019. 

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Ciarán Kennedy

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