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Porter happy to take chance to shine while Furlong injured

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Leinster’s Andrew Porter. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster’s Andrew Porter. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Leinster’s Andrew Porter. Photo: Sportsfile

There were not many moments of open dissent in the time of Joe Schmidt, so those that occurred linger in the memory.

Andrew Porter was one of the few Ireland players who enjoyed a good World Cup and, when he was brought on early in the second half against a dominant Japan side, he had an impact and began to turn the physical tide.

The problem was, Porter was only on as a temporary sub and when Tadhg Furlong returned to the sideline he was hauled ashore again.

The 24-year-old tighthead was visibly disgusted with the decision; giving a 'Who? Me?' look and shaking his head as he was withdrawn. By the time he returned, Kenki Fukuoka had scored his try and the team were playing catch-up.

Up until this point in his career, Porter's role has been as Furlong's back-up. Long term, they may be team-mates if the St Andrew's graduate ever switches back to the loosehead position when Cian Healy retires.

For now, he is up against a three-Test Lions star and centrally contracted Ireland international for the No 3 jersey. The problem for Porter has been that at times in the last 18 months he has looked to be in better form than his illustrious rival.

This window has provided an opportunity for him to show his wares and he is thriving with the responsibility afforded him by Furlong's back injury.

He doesn't wish ill on Furlong, but he is relishing the chance. "It's obviously a big opportunity for myself and I'm just trying to really nail my basics, trying to do my job and getting to my flow again. After such a long time, I almost forgot to scrum, having not been able to do it," he says.

"It's definitely different in terms of being able to showcase my own abilities. It's also about building those game minutes and getting that fitness back again."

Lockdown was a family affair for Porter, whose sister Leigh is a competitive weight-lifter and personal trainer. Without the usual help from the Leinster support staff, Porter turned to his sister. "It was great over lockdown as well, my sister (Leigh) is a personal trainer so she was keeping me under a strict routine of diet and exercise over the lockdown period," he said.

"Having that and having my dad (Ernie) who is big into rugby as well, it's great to have a family that interested and invested in what I'm doing as well."

And he's happy enough with the results since he came back. He said: "As a tighthead, you're expected to scrum first and then let everything else fall into place. I'm feeling good around the park, getting those good minutes under my belt.

Strangely, given the post-pandemic season, his third game is a final and he is urging his colleagues to finish the job of a historic season.

"The whole season will mean nothing if we don't turn up this weekend," Porter adds.