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John Hayes backs Andrew Porter to pass Italian and French exams

Porter struggled for Leinster against Saracens in last month’s Champions Cup quarter-final but Munster and Ireland legend Hayes believes the tight-head will thrive in the Six Nations.

Hayes is backing Porter to thrive in the Six Nations.
Hayes is backing Porter to thrive in the Six Nations.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

FEBRUARY 19, 2000 was the date of John Hayes’ first cap for Ireland, 6 August 2011 the day he pulled on a green shirt for a 105th and final time.

Fair to say then, he learned a thing or two about surviving in the front-row, enough to realise that when Mike Ross took over the lease at No3, then Tadhg Furlong, Ireland’s coaches would have one less worry to think about on a sleepless night.

But a calf injury has removed Furlong from the mix for the remainder of this year’s Six Nations campaign and if that wasn’t keeping Andy Farrell awake then Andrew Porter’s performance in Leinster’s Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens may well have done.

Hayes, however, is unconcerned. Not only does he remember his own recoveries from bad days at the office, but he also has a belief in Porter that runs beyond mere loyalty to a fellow member of the tight-head union.

There is a lot being made of the fact he has struggled but I don’t think he has struggled that often,” Hayes said yesterday.

“Even two years ago, against Wales, Tadhg got injured after a few minutes and he (Porter) was thrown in at the deep end. He subsequently had to start a few games and he just did it without any fuss.

“He is training in a Leinster environment where every coaching session he is up against internationals, so he is just learning all the time, challenged all the time – and he is stepping up (to the plate). It is great he has been given the chance.

“In other countries, they give young fellas a chance like this whereas maybe in Ireland we hold on to fellas too much. Look down at New Zealand or Australia, they’d throw him in at this stage as well.

“The thing that all the fellas but especially Porter are good at these days, is the jackal at the breakdown.

sport-ireland-your-personal-best-2020-campaign-launch Hayes is an ambassador for Sport Ireland's 'Your Personal Best Month'. Source: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE

“When someone like him gets on the ball he’s virtually unmovable. So that’s what they have really brought to the game now, that it’s a 15-man game, where there are no excuses.

“You are not waiting for back-rows to arrive to secure the ball or turn it over anymore. So that’s really what those fellas (like Porter) have brought into the modern-day game, this realisation that it’s an all-round game. Guys like him can do everything.

We’ve seen his carries as well, what Porter did a couple of years ago there against Ulster, blowing fellas out of the way was so impressive.”

Less impressive was his display against Saracens, however.

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But Hayes said: “You can’t make too much out of something like that. You’ll have a day out where maybe things didn’t go that well but I wouldn’t have any fears. They’ll have been sorted out in camp over the last couple of weeks.”

Helping him in the sorting department is Cian Healy, now 33, now about to win his 99th cap and on the brink of becoming just the sixth Irishman to reach the century mark in international rugby.

“Coming back after he was almost retired shows the durability and the character of him, what it meant for him to play for Ireland, that he was nearly gone but he just wouldn’t give up on it,” said Hayes of his former team-mate.

“He has come back and has shown what a quality player he is. And he’s still only 33, I know he started young but you wouldn’t be writing him off yet.”

john-hayes-rory-best-and-cian-healy Healy, Best and Hayes together for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Nor is he prepared to write off Munster, either. Another season ended without silverware in 2019/20 and with Leinster continuing to evolve – there are no tell-tale signs of the gap closing.

Well, I wouldn’t be downbeat at all,” Hayes said. “The thing they needed was a couple of players with an X-factor. They’ve got them with (Joey) Carbery and RG Snyman; they now just need to get them fit and on the field at the same time.

“I genuinely believe that when Carbery, Snyman, Dave Kilcoyne return that there is an energy and dynamism there that can actually challenge teams.

“The thing is that they have been missing a few big players at big moments in games. Big carries, big tackles, any team who has ever won anything, they’ve had players with an X-factor.

“You could see with (RG) Snyman, Joey Carbery and (Damian) De Allende coming in what they were aiming for. If all those players were fit that Munster team would take on anybody. Snyman is a huge loss; you could see what he managed to do for South Africa and you could just imagine what Johann van Graan was thinking when he saw him go off after five or six minutes. He must have been thinking, I need a break here.”

  • John Hayes is an ambassador for Sport Ireland’s ‘Your Personal Best Month’, aimed at encouraging men over 45 to engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week. Visit www.sportireland.ie for more

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Garry Doyle

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