Andrew Porter versatility opens up World Cup squad options
"The reality is in the World Cup, you're going to have to have one prop who can play either side. Potentially maybe even two." - Joe Schmidt
Andrew Porter made an early name for himself as a loosehead prop before, at the prompting of coaches, he shifted over to give tighthead a go. On Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby, earlier this year, he recalled a rough club debut in the position but he eventually got a handle on it.
Now, some two years after swapping the 1 jersey for 3, Porter is being called upon to cover both sides of the Irish scrum.
On Saturday, as Ireland defeated Italy in their season-opener, Porter was excellent as tighthead in the first half. For the second half, he moved around to loosehead and won the praise of former Munster and Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery [from 17:00 below]:
Following his side's 29-10 victory, Joe Schmidt spoke about the "reality" of needing an adaptable prop that could lock down both sides of the scrum.
"John Ryan has played either side in the past," Schmidt noted. "Finlay Bealham has played either side. So them three will probably be the guys who would cover at that role and the others would be more specialist, the likes of Cian Healy, Jack McGrath and Dave Kilcoyne on the loosehead and Tadhg Furlong on the tighthead."
As for Porter, he humbly admitted to being 'a bit rusty' at loosehead but stressed he is keen to get more training and game-time in the role. He commented:
"It's something I'll be looking to work on to be as versatile as I can. So I'll be looking to push that forward in the next few weeks.
"At the beginning, two years ago, switching from loosehead to tighthead was very tough. Moving across the scrum is like writing with your bad hand.
"But you're going up against some of the best guys in the world in training and in matches, so that's really helped over the last couple of years."
Porter added, "It's always been something coaches go over with me, that if needs be I could slot back in at loosehead.
"So it's important now to get reps in training, and have runs in games like these. It's great to be able to play both sides, it pushes my case a bit forward like that."
The beauty of Andrew Porter, Finlay Bealham and John Ryan being able to cover positions is that it potentially frees up a slot for another position to be covered in the 31-man squad.
Schmidt may be left with a few tough choices in the coming weeks - Jean Kleyn or Tadhg Beirne and Andrew Conway or Jordan Larmour, for example - and a versatile prop offers relief.
The Kiwi may also opt to bring extra outhalf cover - Jack Carty AND Ross Byrne - just in case Joey Carbery travels to Japan at less than 100% fitness.