Porter continuing to blossom
Meditation and breathing techniques playing part as Leinster tighthead thinks outside the box in rapid rise to big time
Like several of his Leinster and Ireland team-mates, Andrew Porter has had to rip up his list of goals for the season and rewrite them.
Jordan Larmour was hoping to get a couple of starts for Leinster 'A', while Porter had eyes on forcing himself into the Champions Cup picture.
With a Grand Slam already secured, Leinster's younger brigade now have their sights set on conquering Europe as well as the Guinness PRO14.
Such has been the rate of their success, one often wonders whether or not they think this professional rugby business is as straightforward.
"I think the main goal for me was to get a few Champions Cup games under my belt because I hadn't played at that stage," Porter maintains.
"I'd only played a handful of games for Leinster at tighthead last season and it was just to get more consistent game-time in the blue jersey. That was the main goal.
"Now my main goal is just to be consistent each week, it doesn't matter who you're playing, you've got to put your best foot forward and give your best performance.
"It's just about building good habits on and off the field I think, whether you're doing your analysis or your meal prep or whatever it is. It's just about good habits."
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Porter's rapid rise has been fascinating to watch. These days, it's easy to forget that last season, he was playing loosehead.
Much has been made of his transition to tighthead but he has handled every challenge that has been put in front of him and Porter has now cemented himself as second choice behind Tadhg Furlong for both club and country.
"The coaches at the beginning said, 'There's going to be a bit of frustration on your part but stick with it'," the former St Andrew's student explains.
"I obviously didn't think it would happen this quickly. One thing led to another. I think I played one game for Leinster last year against Ulster at tighthead and then got the call-up for the summer tour.
"Things really picked up from there. Getting more game-time for Leinster this season and getting my first Champions Cup game against Exeter I think at home. It's really kind of almost snowballed."
Fast forward 12 months and Porter has started five games at tighthead and made another 13 appearances from the bench for Leinster this season.
As a loosehead, particularly for the Ireland U-20s, Porter was a ferocious ball-carrier who was invariably extremely tough to stop.
We have only seen glimpse of that power since he made the switch, which is understandable as he is focusing the majority of his attention of locking down the scrum.
But it is an aspect of Porter's game that remains part of his arsenal, which Jacob Stockdale can testify to as he felt the full brunt of it with Ulster at the RDS earlier this season.
"I got a few sly ones off that one," Porter smiles.
"I think he (Stockdale) got enough accolades during the Six Nations so he forgot about it pretty quickly!
"I just love the physicality. I love carrying, almost trying to run through lads. It's part of my game
"I try to work on it, get my hands better, my feet better to not only try to go through people but go around them. I got a few tips off Jordan Larmour for that.
"I don't think you really have time to think, you're just going on instinct."
Porter's physical threat is obvious from just looking at him, but he has been working hard at the mental side of his game as well.
The demands of professional rugby nowadays mean that players are looking for an extra edge any way they can get it, and Porter is no different.
"I just try to kind of make myself better," he adds.
"It's something I've always wanted to do. If I wasn't in the gym trying to get physically better.
"I'd want to try and get mentally better. It's good for building a bit mental fortitude and mental strength. It makes you more conscious of even decisions on the pitch. It's good.
"It's good for clearing your mind, clearing out the stress, the negative thoughts, the negative vibes.
"I wouldn't have any triggers, just take that deep breath if you make a mistake in a game and focus on what you can do next, get better and make amends for it really. I'd do a bit of meditation, breathing techniques here and there. If I can wring out a one or two per cent here or there I'll do it.
"I look at YouTube videos and stuff like that. Our S&C coach for Ireland was very good for all the mindfulness stuff. It really kind of helps clear your head of everything, all your stress, everything like that.
"It's just fine-tuning now, getting that extra one or two per cent here or there."