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'What you don’t want to do is mess around with somebody like Ports'

Robin McBryde says the tighthead needs to be included in any discussions about his best position going forward.

Leinster prop Andrew Porter.
Leinster prop Andrew Porter.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

ROBIN McBRYDE SAYS he can understand the benefits that would come with moving Leinster and Ireland prop Andrew Porter back across from tighthead to loosehead.

Porter has enjoyed a hugely positive season for both club and country at tighthead, getting more first-team exposure in the absence of Tadhg Furlong, who only recently returned from a long-term injury lay-off.

Following some impressive displays during the autumn internationals, Porter started Ireland’s opening two Six Nations fixtures against Wales and France, before Furlong was restored to the starting team for last weekend’s win over Italy.

And with Furlong quickly finding his feet on the pitch again, it has raised the question of how to best accommodate Porter going forward. 

The 25-year-old came through the age grades at loosehead before switching to tighthead during the early days of his senior career with Leinster. 

Ireland remain open to the possibility of pushing Porter back across to loosehead, where the current front-runners in Andy Farrell’s squad are 33-year-old Cian Healy and Dave Kilcoyne, 32.

And Leinster scrum coach McBryde says that while Porter has shown real development at tighthead over the past year, he can see the sense in relocating him again.

“I think that’s a three-way conversation, both nationally, regionally or provincially here, and with Andrew,” McBryde says.

First and foremost, the player has to be happy with what opportunities moving across will give him because, at the moment, he is up there with the best tightheads in world rugby because he’s playing regularly and he’s playing well.

“So it’s a tricky one to be perfectly honest with you. Because what you don’t want to do is mess around with somebody like Ports. He’s a great kid… he’s older than a kid, but he’s a great kid to work with because he is so open to anything really.

“So yeah, those conversations, I personally haven’t had those conversations but I can see the merits in it, because you want your best rugby players on the field. So we’ll see how that one develops.” 

After a difficult 2020 campaign, Ireland’s scrum has been one of the more encouraging elements of their game in the current Six Nations.

McBryde says the approach at international level isn’t too different to how Leinster are trying to do things.

“I had a discussion with Fogs [John Fogarty, Ireland scrum coach] ahead of the tournament really about what we were doing with Leinster,” he says.

andrew-porter-and-tadgh-furlong In Tadhg Furlong (right), Andrew Porter faces world-class competition at Leinster and Ireland. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“It was just a back and forth conversation as regards how we saw the scrum going in modern rugby and the way of the world. Because of the number of players involved in both camps, you know, I think both of us have got common sense to realise that there is no point in going too far from what we’re doing at regional level.

“It was a good discussion and it’s just great to see them doing well. They’re scrummaging really well at the moment, it’s a positive for all of them, Andrew Porter, Cian Healy, Ed Byrne is back with us this week, Rónan Kelleher, it is good to see that relationship working.” 

With so many players away on international duty, Leinster have been able to use the last few weeks to get more minutes into some of the squad’s younger players.

One example is Dan Sheehan. The hooker, who made his Leinster debut against Zebre in October, has come off the bench in the wins against Dragons and Glasgow Warriors to play his first senior rugby since November.

“He needs more gametime, he needs more minutes. I think that’s what is going to accelerate his development really,” McBryde continues.

“Now whether there is an opportunity to do it and with the quality we have got in that position… Rónan Kelleher is currently away and then you’ve got James Tracy and Seán Cronin here, so the level of competition against him is very high. So unfortunately that means he may not get the playing minutes that he needs.

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“However, we are aware of it, and we need to be pushing him a little bit more and more and more. That’s the only way he’s going to get better.”

Sheehan is not the only player who would like to be getting more minutes under his belt, something the province accept is a challenge in the current climate.

“It’s tough at the moment because there’s not a lot of rugby going on anywhere underneath the professional level. I know there’s been a couple of ‘A’ games, but nothing compared to what there would be normally really. 

“It’s a bit of a one-off situation currently. However, we are aware that we need to give these guys gametime, so hopefully in the next couple of weeks we’ll see him get a bit more time on the field.

“You’ve got to keep these players hungry, and they’ve got to realise that when they do get their opportunity they’ve got to live up to expectation as well. They’ve got to value the opportunity when it comes along.”

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