Following his first Six Nations start for Ireland in yesterday’s thrilling 37-27 win over Wales, young prop Andrew Porter reserved special praise for the guidance provided by Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong in the lead up to the game.
In his role as Ireland captain, Rory Best talked the 22-year-old Andrew Porter through different aspects of the game, which helped the Leinster tighthead with his preparations for the biggest Test of his fledgling international career.
Porter had replaced the injured Tadhg Furlong in the opening minutes of Ireland’s 56-19 bonus point victory over Italy two weeks earlier, and the Wexford man also lent a helping hand to his provincial colleague for the third round visit of Wales.
“Our captain, Rory Best. He was sitting down and we were talking all week. I think that’s what we need from a captain. Being able to talk and instill confidence in all your players. As well as Tadhg. He was helping me along all the way, so they were really helpful. Both of them,” said Porter in the aftermath of his second Six Nations appearance.
It has been an eventful season to date for Porter, who only made his Ireland debut against the USA last June. While accepting there have been some frustrating moments along the way, he believes significant game-time is allowing him to blossom from an Under-20 loosehead to a tighthead in the senior grade.
“It’s been a bit up and down from the very beginning honestly. But with the more games I’m getting, the more experience I get. It’s really helping me out, especially getting my first start here in the Aviva. With all the other games with Leinster I’m playing, just getting more and more minutes I think. It’s really helping me with my development.”
It was a big day for both Porter and Chris Farrell, as the pair deputised for two of Ireland’s most important players in the shape of centre Robbie Henshaw and Furlong. The latter is very much in the mould of a modern day prop and Porter agrees that stamina is every bit as important as the physical side of life in the scrum.
“That’s what I’ve really been trying to work on. I think the stereotypical prop is kinda gone now, so you’re expected to get around the park a lot more now. It’s something I’ve really been trying to work on. Work on my fitness. With more and more scrums, it’s obviously a lot different from the loosehead side. It takes a bit more out of you.”
With two rounds of the Championship remaining, the prospect of a Grand Slam is coming into sharp focus for Ireland. Yet, whereas the Scotland clash on Saturday week represents another step on the road to glory, it is clear that Joe Schmidt’s men are just as eager to atone for their first round loss to the Scots in 2017.
“Obviously we owe Scotland one from last year. We have to make these home games count. We’ll take our learnings from this game and carry them on to that one. I think we need to take every game as they come. I don’t think we can be looking too far ahead, like a Grand Slam. But that’s the ultimate goal, really.”
Yesterday’s eight-try shootout with Wales was a true edge-of-the-seat affair from the opening minute to the last, with a number of positives and negatives for Schmidt and his fellow coaches to reflect upon.
Porter, who got through plenty of hard graft in his 66 minutes on the pitch, expects some of Ireland’s defensive issues to be highlighted in Monday’s video review, but was relieved that they managed to achieve their objective on the day.
“I think ultimately we got that bonus point. We’ll be happy with that, but we’ll have a look on Monday at the review and we’ll have a look at our defence, where we got caught out a few times. Have a look at that and then carry it on for the next game,” he added.
Porter has also received a ringing endorsement from Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster, who believes the young Dubliner, who was promoted from the province’s Academy to their senior squad this season, has a very bright future ahead of him at the top level.
“There’s no doubt in my mind about Andrew Porter. Obviously it’s a massive step up to come into an international game. Great to get 70-odd minutes in the previous game against Italy,” explained Lancaster, who was speaking at the ‘Aviva Fan Studio’ event yesterday.
“He’s powerful, he’s strong, he’s a good scrummager, he wants to play at tighthead, and his ability to get around the field and be a ball-player is exceptional. I think he’s a really, really exiting prospect.
“When I came to Leinster he was playing at loosehead, and having coached the likes of Dan Cole, Kyle Sinckler, and Kieran Brookes as the English tightheads, I was like, ‘who’s this kid?!’ We all made the collective decision, Leinster and Ireland, that he should be looked at as a tighthead, and he’s going to be some player. He’s as good as any of the ones I’ve ever coached.”