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Saturday 18 November 2017

Porter on course to complete change from loose to tight side

Leinster prop Andrew Porter could feature against Fiji. Pic: Sportsfile
Leinster prop Andrew Porter could feature against Fiji. Pic: Sportsfile

Leinster's Andrew Porter could be on the verge of his first start for Ireland against Fiji at The Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening (KO 5.30).

What a meteoric rise it would be for the former St Andrew's College prop to complete his transformation from loose-head to tight-head in the space of a year.

Coach Joe Schmidt has already rewarded Porter with two caps from the bench on the summer tour to the United States and Japan, for 29 and 19 minutes respectively.

Munster's John Ryan presented with a calf injury after an eye-catching 10-minute impact against South Africa.

He returned to his province for the week, leaving Tadhg Furlong and Porter as the two remaining tight-heads.

Certainly, Schmidt would not have wanted to start Furlong in all three tests this month.

While Porter was on site in a learning capacity, there must be a temptation to throw the 21-year-old into the heat of battle, considering Fiji's manageable threat at the set-piece scrum.

However, Porter has started for Leinster just once this season, against Southern Kings, and has been kept off the bench in the Champions Cup by the veteran presence of Michael Bent.

Number eight Jack Conan must be considered a racing certainty to start the middle-leg of the three test matches.

There was a convincing argument to be made that he started the month in better form than CJ Stander.

Schmidt had a difficult selection taken from him when Conan was released last week due to what was described as a heavy workload.

There is something of Lanigan's Ball about the Ireland squad out in Carton House at the moment.

Dan Leavy (hamstring) steps out, Jordi Murphy steps in again. Tommy O'Donnell (shoulder) steps out. Sean Reidy steps in again.

In the case of Murphy, the flanker kept in shape with a try-scoring start for the Barbarians against Tonga at Thomond Park last Friday night.

Munster captain Peter O'Mahony was treated for a blood-soaked wound to his ear which required multiple stitches.

Rhys Ruddock has made a serious shout fo r the number six shirt with a typically effective effort from the bench.

Sadly, the confirmation came that Munster wing Keith Earls will continue the rehabilitation of his hamstring at home in Limerick.

The fragility of forsaking your international shirt can be gathered from the way Jacob Stockdale launched his career with a try on his first home appearance for Ireland at The Aviva Stadium.

The Ulsterman backed up the positive impression made in the summer in making it two tries from three internationals.

In addition, Andrew Conway could not have done any more in making his move ahead of the more decorated Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble and Dave Kearney.

As if that wasn't enough for Earls to take, Munster's Darren Sweetnam did enough in just six minutes to push his claim to start against Fiji on Saturday.

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