Porter senses a different vibe as Ireland refocused and refreshed

Porter senses a different vibe as Ireland refocused and refreshed
Andrew Porter: ‘The weekend off following three Tests in 12 days has helped not just to refresh mind and body.’ Picture: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

There may be an ill wind blowing his way this weekend but as far as Andrew Porter is concerned the only storm that matters is the one Ireland can produce against Samoa.

As Typhoon Hagibis develops off the shores of southern Japan with an expected push towards Fukuoka in time for Saturday’s kick-off, Porter is not thinking about the potential derailing of Ireland’s World Cup Pool A campaign but the intent within the camp to get it back on track with a statement performance at the Hakatanomori Stadium, whatever the weather.

Porter, 23, has played in all three pool games, as a tighthead replacement against the Scots and Japanese while coming off the bench last Thursday against Russia as loosehead cover.

Defeat to hosts Japan in Shizuoka nine days ago and a less than convincing team performance in the bonus-point 35-0 win over Russia five days later in Kobe have left prop Porter and his squad-mates determined to prove to themselves, as much as anyone else, that the 27-3 opening-weekend victory over Scotland was not the blip but the benchmark for the rest of the tournament.

“I think against Russia we kind of went almost through the motions in some parts of the game,” Porter said. “We got the result there but I think we’re really going to look to lay a marker down this week.”

Porter senses that the weekend off the players were granted following three Tests in 12 days has helped not just to refresh mind and body but also help to increase the positivity in the group as they look toward to getting the five match points against Samoa that will guarantee their progress to the quarter-finals.

I think there is (a different vibe), definitely. Those first couple of weeks were almost kind of crammed into one. It felt like one big block more than anything, so it’s nice to be able to have even a day or two just to refresh the mind.

“Guys can just switch off for a bit but then we’re refreshed coming into today and looking ahead to the rest of the week.”

Porter is itching for a start this Saturday. “It would be nice to start a game, just to get those starting minutes under my belt as well, but whatever the coaches have in store I’m happy to do. Whether I start or come off the bench, I’m versatile like that.”

He’s that in more ways than one. Originally a loosehead, he switched to tighthead in search of gametime at Leinster as Jack McGrath and Cian Healy blocked his pathway and has now seen his entry into Ireland’s World Cup squad benefit from his adaptability, with head coach Schmidt selecting five props, only two of them looseheads, Dave Kilcoyne and Porter’s good friend Healy, whom he described as “like a brother” to him.

Healy had said something similar about Porter at the weekend. “I think it’s amazing how close we are,” the 93-cap veteran said.

“I get on very well with Ports and we spend a lot of time together. He is also quiet in his own way and I like that. He goes about his work quietly and then at the right times he’s a bit boisterous so it’s a good mix to have in someone and he’s going well so he’s allowed to do that.”

The first-choice loosehead praised his younger team-mate’s versatility at the World Cup.

“I thought he’s done it well,” Healy said. “It’s a very tough thing to do. It’s writing with your left hand pretty much, swapping hands. I’ve seen him coming out of some of them frustrated and that’s good though because he’s a bit of a perfectionist about he goes about it.

“Even when he has good scrums in training I’ve seen him be a little bit upset about what he’s doing because he hasn’t got a certain thing he wanted. So to have to step across and do that, he only had one session this week, really, to nail that down, I thought he did brilliant and it’s great to have that ability to do it because god knows I wouldn’t want to go over to tighthead.”

Porter’s move in the other direction across the front row hasn’t been easy, he admits.

“It was difficult switching back again too but it’s getting the reps in training and everything in pre-season against Tadhg (Furlong) and John Ryan and a few of the other boys, you’re kind of thrown in the deep end in training and are learning from the best, training against the best and it’s the best way to prepare.

“It was daunting at first when they were saying, ‘we’re going to throw you back at loosehead’ but back in the pre-season games against Wales, as it turned out it wasn’t as daunting as I thought it would be. It was like riding a bike again and I’m happy on either side.

“It’s where I started out, and with the coaching and training I’ve got over the past few years it kinda comes naturally to me now, trying to do both. Hopefully it stands to me in the future.”


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