Saturday 17 March 2018

Fogarty: Porter needs more time after making switch to tighthead

Leinster's Andrew Porter. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Leinster's Andrew Porter. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It's easy to forget that this time last year, Mike Ross started the season with a significant weight on his broad shoulders as Leinster's first-choice tighthead.

Fast forward 12 months and the veteran has hung up his boots and paved the way for the next generation to take up the baton.

Tadhg Furlong has been outstanding since he usurped his one-time mentor and suddenly in a position that was once seemingly light on options, Leinster have decent alternative options.

Heavily Michael Bent started in last week's win over the Dragons but his second-half replacement Andrew Porter is breathing down his neck in terms of playing back-up to Furlong.

Porter is a hugely impressive athlete who made the switch from loosehead to tighthead last season. It's difficult understate how technically different both positions are and the former St Andrew's College student is still very much learning the ropes.

Having been capped by Ireland on the summer tour, Joe Schmidt is clearly an admirer and with loosehead fairly well stocked, the decision was taken to switch Porter to the opposite side of the scrum.

Leinster's scrum coach John Fogarty has played a key role in helping the 21-year-old with the tricky transition but he has urged supporters to give the youngster more time to develop in what is a totally new position.

"Something we have to be conscious of is where he is in his development," Fogarty explained.

"Moving across to tighthead was a good move for him, going on tour with Ireland was great. He worked with Greg Feek and it exposed him to what is involved with Ireland.

"He still needs development. He is not the finished article. But he is very far down the line, considering where he started.

"He is a little high on the bind. He needs to get into the scrum with a better profile. He's got a lot of energy for the game outside his main role. That is important.

"It doesn't seem to have compromised him too much. The nature of playing tighthead is that you are going to tire more quickly than playing at loosehead.

"Very few times a tighthead or lock will finish the game. He has a huge engine, an enormous capacity for load in the gym, and he has that power. He is a freak in that sense."

Competition for places at Leinster is as fierce as it has ever been. For Porter, getting the opportunity to scrummage in training against seasoned internationals like Jack McGrath and Cian Healy is vital for his development, according to Fogarty.

"We always have to have three front-rows ready to go all the time.

He is incredibly strong when he gets down into a certain position. It is about getting him down into that position.

"Someone like Andrew scrummaging against Jack and Cian and Ed (Byrne) and Peter (Dooley) is a huge learning environment. There is a huge camaraderie within the group. There is such a need or a want to share or help each other out."

Furlong is still a few weeks from returning following his exploits with the Lions. Porter will be desperate to get as many minutes under his belt as possible.

Fogarty believes that having someone like the Wexford native ahead of him will drive Porter's standards, just like it did in Furlong's case when he had to bide his time behind Ross.

Sessions "There is a huge amount of experience involved in the front-row," Fogarty added.

"You're put in different scenarios and learn through feel much of the time. There's only so much you can learn in live sessions because they're controlled.

"Andrew came off the bench and was frustrated coming off the field because he didn't get a chance to go forward. His patience and composure as a tighthead and his knowledge are not as great as Tadhg's.

"A certain amount of it has to do with shape and power. The key is the experience you have against the best teams.

"There is a huge amount in it. Tadhg is further down the line. He has been in more situations."

Irish Independent

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