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Monday 18 December 2017

Prop Porter will be back for more as Ireland's 'Terminator'

Andrew Porter of Ireland and Nemani Nagusa of Fiji shake hands. Photo: Sportsfile
Andrew Porter of Ireland and Nemani Nagusa of Fiji shake hands. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster prop Andrew Porter had to weigh up the risk-reward when it was put to him to move from loose-head to tight-head in the summer of 2016.

The carbon copy of Cian Healy for his eye-popping exploits in the gym and the explosive element to his carry was all set to be groomed to follow in the hard-hammering footsteps of Healy, now 30, and Jack McGrath, now 28, at Leinster.

However, the Blues had a greater need at three than they did at one, despite the under-rated set-piece of Michael Bent.

The same goes for Ireland, despite the improvement in Munster's John Ryan.

The suggestion may never have been made had Martin Moore not flown the coup to Wasps.

In essence, it was a matter of sacrifice for Porter; a matter of need for Leinster.

Porter had to consider leaving a post made for his personal attributes to transition into one which was more of benefit to the province.

Appointed the ominous nickname of 'The Terminator' among those who had seen and felt his wincing power in contact, Porter would have to shelve his love of the looser role to tighten the reins on his game.

This meant more time with his face in the dirt from scrummaging and rucking and less time to shine from body-rocking hits and battering ball-in-hand.

By the end of the season, Porter was wearing Ireland caps from his debut in the United States and his second in Japan.

"When you're a tight-head, your main duty is to lock down a scrum.

"But it's good to be able to grow the rest of the game around that, carry the ball and get around the park."

Despite just one start for Leinster this season, coach Joe Schmidt handed the 21- year-old his first start against an improved Fijian scrum.

Like Leinster's James Ryan and Ulster's Jacob Stockdale, this is a pointer towards the 2019 Rugby World Cup from Schmidt.

"I was quite nervous when I got the call-up," he admitted.

"But Joe and the other coaches and the other players really helped me to push forward with my confidence levels."

Those have been built incrementally from early onset humiliation against Healy and McGrath out in Leinster's training ground at Rosemount.

"Being able to scrum against the best players in the world really helps.

"When it comes to game-time, it's fairly natural almost."

The man reflecting on his third cap and his first start is just ahead of debut-maker Chris Farrell.

The centre from the Clogher Valley club went to Grenoble in France to get the game time that was just not possible behind a glut of internationals at Ulster.

"It was purely to get game time and gain experience and build and grow as a player," he said. "Then, I'd come back home and step up to this level.

"That was always my view and I was always going to come back."

The fact that Schmidt never lost contact meant that Farrell never felt lost to the cause.

"He reviewed a few of my games during my time over there and gave me a few things to work on."

So far, it looks like all is going to plan for Farrell.

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