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'He's comfortable in his own shoes. He doesn't get fazed by a lot of things'

Leinster forwards coach Robin McBryde on Ireland prop Andrew Porter.

Ireland’s Andrew Porter and Tadhg Furlong.
Ireland’s Andrew Porter and Tadhg Furlong.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

HE HAS GAINED considerable plaudits for his performances in Ireland’s successful march through the Autumn Nations Series over the past few weeks, but Leinster forwards coach Robin McBryde believes Andrew Porter is only getting started in his quest to become a top-class loosehead prop.

Predominantly deployed at the opposite side of the scrum until this season, the 25-year-old Dubliner has been enjoying a smooth transition out of the tighthead position. Instead of largely playing second fiddle to Tadhg Furlong, Porter has now arguably usurped the previously immovable Cian Healy in the number one jersey for both province and country.

A noted front-row operator himself during a distinguished career with his native Wales, McBryde mooted the idea of Porter making a permanent move back to loosehead (he previously shone there for the Ireland U20s) before he embarked on the British & Irish Lions’ Tour of South Africa in the summer. Though injury ultimately ruled him out of facing the Springboks, Porter went ahead with the switch and is currently reaping the benefits of his decision.

“Ports is a comfortable individual, he’s comfortable in his own shoes. He doesn’t get fazed by a lot of things. If he didn’t have the ability to do it, then we wouldn’t have even raised it with him really. You need your best players on the pitch at the same time, so it’s great to see him play all those minutes in the past month,” McBryde explained at a Leinster media briefing yesterday.

“Where in the past, he has been coming on for 15/20 minutes after Tadhg has come off. It’s great to see him get that amount of minutes under his belt. It’s tough for Cian Healy obviously, but Cian took it on the chin with regards to helping him out.

“It was a positive campaign for Ireland. As a team, as a pack and for Andrew as an individual. I thought he was excellent. This is his first campaign as a loosehead. He’s only going to get better and with the World Cup a couple of years away, it’s going to be a formidable force really, Ireland as a pack.”

robin-mcbryde Leinster assistant coach Robin McBryde. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

McBryde was speaking in advance of Leinster’s United Rugby Championship clash with Ulster at the RDS on Saturday (kick-off 8pm). This will be the eastern province’s first fixture since defeating Glasgow Warriors back on 22 October and kick-starts a block of 10 games in as many weekends across the URC and the European Champions Cup.

While many others are expected to be rested, international stars Jonathan Sexton (knee and ankle), James Ryan (head) and Jack Conan (quad) are all unavailable for this weekend’s interprovincial fare.

Although the Blues have recorded six successive wins over Dan McFarland’s side since last losing to them in April 2019, McBryde is still expecting a stern examination in their latest meeting.

“They proved difficult in the last game we played them in the Rainbow Cup. They’re big men, they’ve got good go-forward. They carry hard, they make it really difficult for the opposition to get their game going as well.

“It will be a big test for us, but it will be hopefully one that we can stand up to and show some of the work we’ve done in the past month as well with these guys. We haven’t been standing still, we’ve been working on one or two things and hopefully we’ll see that come to the fore on Saturday.”

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Despite the temptation to throw their fully-fit frontline internationals into the mix as quickly as possible, McBryde feels the depth of the Leinster squad means they can afford to ease them back gradually after a hectic period of international action. Given how packed their own calendar is about to become, it would be foolhardy from his point of view to unnecessarily flog any player within their ranks.

“The guys back here have been working hard for this past month and I know they’re ready to take an opportunity if it comes their way. We’re fortunate that we’ve got good strength in depth, so we can afford to treat each individual case with regards to how much minutes they’ve played etc. Make sure they don’t get burn out,” McBryde added.

“Because it’s going to be a busy schedule ahead of us, this next block of games for us. We’re into the interpros and then we’re into Europe. Back into the interpros and then they’re straight into the Six Nations after going back into Europe.

“It’s a big block of games, but we have got strength in depth. We’ve got quality. Hopefully we’ll be able to manage everybody and make sure none of them get that burnt-out feeling.”

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