Ryan, Porter and O'Loughlin the latest Ireland call-ups off Leinster conveyor belt

Joe Schmidt will bring the uncapped trio on Ireland’s tour of the US and Japan.

LEINSTER HAVE THREE uncapped players in Ireland’s squad to tour the US and Japan and yet none of them will play in this evening’s Guinness Pro12 semi-final against the Scarlets at the RDS [KO 7.45pm, TG4/Sky Sports].

James Ryan, Andrew Porter and Rory O’Loughlin are among the eight players hoping to win their Test debuts this summer under Joe Schmidt and, while their time as frontliners is still to come, Leinster are very excited about all three.

Rory O’Loughlin scores a try O'Loughlin has scored eight tries in the Pro12. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

23-year-old O’Loughlin has had the most exposure at senior level, shining at outside centre and on the wing for Leo Cullen’s side this season, while Porter has been busy making a transition from loosehead prop to tighthead in recent times.

Former Ireland U20 captain Ryan, meanwhile, has been spending recent months working hard to recover from a serious hamstring injury and, while he has yet to play a senior game for Leinster, big things are expected of the lock.

The 20-year-old was last seen in Munster colours, playing for the province’s development side last week as he secured crucial game time ahead of Ireland’s tour.

But Ryan will be back in Leinster colours next season, having signed a professional contract with his native province.

“James has been unlucky,” says Leinster head coach Cullen of the talented 20-year-old. “He got injured playing with UCD back in November after playing a few B&I games earlier in the season.

“He played 40 minutes for a Leinster/Ireland development team against the Ireland U20s, so this was just a follow-on from that with the Irish U20s playing another game [against Munster's development team].

“It was a good window for James to get some game time and it is difficult for us getting games this time of year. James is someone who has been earmarked for some time now. He was outstanding for the Irish U20s last year. We’re monitoring him closely.”

James Ryan and George Nott Ryan is an aggressive presence on both sides of the ball. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Ryan is highly-regarded as an explosive athlete with excellent leadership skills and promising lineout ability, and Schmidt’s decision to bring him on tour this summer speaks volumes about the excitement around his potential within the Irish rugby system.

The former St. Michael’s man led the Ireland U20 team that beat New Zealand for the first time ever last summer, while 21-year-old prop Porter was a big presence at loosehead in that side.

UCD man Porter has been working hard to switch over to tighthead more recently, with his sheer size and strength aiding his cause.

There have been harsh lessons along the way – Porter has got his wings – but he looked solid in his only brief outing at tighthead for Leinster against Ulster two weekends ago, while visiting Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek has clearly been impressed.

“Greg has been in with us,” says Cullen. “When [Porter] made the swap first with UCD he played some games with UCD, then an ‘A’ game and he came off the bench against Ulster two weeks ago, so he is making really steady progress.

“He is a great talent with a tonne of potential. He is a great young man who works really hard and he has trained the house down for us this year and he was very unlucky to miss out for us this week.”

Michael Bent’s experience has secured him the replacement tighthead slot for this evening’s tie against the Scarlets, while O’Loughlin also misses out on making Leinster’s match day squad.

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Andrew Porter Porter is a huge unit in the front row. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Cullen has opted for Zane Kirchner’s experience to cover the outside backs ahead of O’Loughlin, while Adam Byrne – who didn’t make Ireland’s touring squad – gets the nod on the right wing.

“To be fair, Rory has mainly played for us at 13 this year, so I don’t know if it’s necessarily a like-for-like comparison [with Byrne],” said Cullen of O’Loughlin missing out.

“So the make-up of the squad… and someone like Rory gives you great versatility. Adam’s played a lot of games for us at 14 this season, a couple of other players are unlucky to miss out for us as well, both on the [Ireland] tour and in our 23 as well.

“It’s very hard to compare because the demands and the make-up of the tour are slightly different to what our demands are.

“Adam’s been very, very strong for us this season, Rory has been incredible for us this season as well, but as I said he’s been more as a 13 and it’s a slightly different balance. Zane on the bench just gives us that bit more versatility in terms of a back three and playing 15.”

O’Loughlin may miss out this weekend, but along with Porter and Ryan he is proof that the Leinster conveyor belt continues to produce for Irish rugby.

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Murray Kinsella

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