'Like riding a bike': Porter not counting himself out of Ireland's loosehead conversation

Meanwhile, Shane Daly will be one of the few who take fond memories away from today’s win over Georgia.

Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

ONCE STUART MCCLOSKEY completed his gallop down the left touchline off a pass that would soon be ruled forward from Jacob Stockdale, there were precious few positives on show in Ireland’s win over Georgia.

A decent first half complete with long passes, offloads and two tries was followed by a dull second 40 with precious little to get the pulse racing outside of the muscular energy of the visitors.

You have to feel for Shane Daly. A Test debut in a normal year is a rewarding assault on the senses that is both the end of a journey and the beginning of another. But the Cork Con back was introduced midway through a stuttering second half to play in front of an empty stadium.

“Making your debut is special regardless of the game,” says Daly.

shane-daly-and-soso-matiashvili Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Something I was pushing towards since I was very young. So it’s a massive day for me personally.”

A part of Daly must have feared the year would turn without the need to squeeze into a green – or black in today’s case – jersey having struggled with niggling injuries since being called to train with Andy Farrell’s squad.

He looked in peak physical shape today, albeit in conditions that were the polar opposite of how he would have liked to win a first cap.

“We weren’t clinical enough in their main zone, so there were a few more tries we let slip out there,” said the Corkman.

“We could have put them away if we’d stayed on top of our processes but the game was scrappy. There were good things, we created chances but it’s about taking them.”

Daly wasn’t the only man to come away with his reputation improved by the match. Billy Burns was central to Ireland’s fluid moments in attack and Andrew Porter must take it as a massive compliment that he was pulled from the firing line at half-time.

The powerful Leinster prop famously converted from loosehead to tighthead after his U20 year and is enjoying his run in the number three shirt in Tadhg Furlong’s continued absence.

Still, the presence of experienced tighthead Finlay Bealham playing out of position today and the need to send centurion Cian Healy in against the weakest opponent in a four-week run begs the question of whether Porter would serve Ireland best back  in the number 1 shirt.

“Sure look, it’d be like riding a bike I’d say,” the prop said with a smile. He’s happy to play on whatever side he’s asked.

“Wherever I’m getting more minutes on the pitch, that’s where I want to be.

“At the moment that’s tighthead until further notice. That’s where I’ll stay put.

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“For my own personal development it’s been great to have those minutes (at tighthead) at Test level. I’d say that will pay dividends for me down the line.”

soso-matiashvili-is-tackled-by-andrew-porter Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

More immediately, what is down the line for Ireland is a clash with Scotland that promises to pit the sides together after they have taken very different trajectories following their Rugby World Cup meeting in Yokohama a little over 14 months ago.

Ireland won the rematch in the Six Nations, but that was February. A different time. Even the optimistic talk of winning a Championship when the squad went to Paris a month ago feels like it has gathered thick layers of dust.

“It’s the last game we’ll wear green jerseys for a while. It’s a huge opportunity for everyone to take pride in playing for the jersey, give the country a lift,” says Porter, explaining what will motivate Ireland through the week ahead.

“Everyone wants to play their best for the country and it’s a huge moment to do that.”

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Sean Farrell

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