Andrew Porter ‘raring to go’ for Rugby World Cup as Ireland are in high spirits for Tours welcoming

Some caps fit better than others at welcoming ceremony, with Finlay Bealham having particularly difficulty

The air of bonhomie towards, and among, a high-spirited Irish squad was palpable as the city of Tours in the Centre-Val de Loire region in western France formally adopted them for the pool stages of the World Cup.

Amid heavy security on a hot sunny evening, the squad were given a police escort to the aptly named “Grand Théâtre – Opéra De Tours” for the official welcoming ceremony, and following on from their amended open session for 12,000 spectators, each of the squad received a cap and a medal.

The Opéra De Tours performed Ireland’s Call, which enjoys a popularity in France which is hard to fathom, and after speeches by the Mayor, the Ambassador and the ubiquitous Brian O’Driscoll, who welcomed the squad on behalf of World Rugby, to mark their stay in Tours the squad were given a wooden model of the famous bouclier de brennus shield - the iconic trophy for the winners of the French Championship.

Some caps fitted better than others, with Finlay Bealham having particularly difficulty even when untying his ever-lengthening Viking-like main, after which Jamison Gibson-Park led the squad in a reciprocal “Viking Clap”, as had happened in their redesigned open session earlier in the day.


“We saw Jamo [Gibson-Park] doing it in the stadium earlier,” said Andrew Porter afterwards. “It was an incredible ceremony. You kinda have to soak everything in and take each day as it comes.

“I know it’s cliched what I’m saying, but you have to soak up everything in this tournament. I have been lucky to have been on one so far, and this is my second.

“It’s about cherishing each moment and making memories that will last you a lifetime. These will stick with me in my later years.”

“It was an incredible welcome ceremony,” added Porter. “We feel incredibly lucky to be here in Tours. There were some lovely words said by the president of the area and the mayor as well.”

Achieving the balance between work and play is something this squad appears to have mastered under Andy Farrell, and for all the genuine goodwill around, perhaps even more pertinently it’s clear that the management and players alike are genuinely happy with the facilities at the Stade de la Chambrerie.

“I heard it was nothing a year ago when they came out to do the ‘recce’. It’s an incredible facility, the gym, the pitch, it’s everything we could have asked for. It’s top quality,” said Porter.

“And our hotel as well, they’ve pulled out all the stops for us so it’s incredible what they’ve done for us, even in the city of Tours, you see all the Irish flags and the green going around.

“So, you can see the people are excited as well, and you can sense it when you’re on your way to training and you see people are excited, clapping the bus into our training facility, which is kind of unknown. It’s an incredible feeling, having all these facilities and amazing support behind us as well.”

The formalities completed, henceforth it will be Test week mode in advance of Ireland’s opening World Cup pool match against Romania in the Stade de Bordeaux next Saturday (kick-off 3.30pm local time/2.30pm Irish).

“Yeah, raring to go,” admitted Porter. “Sure, I’ve been raring to go for four years. It’s come down to this, one week to go, so I’m chomping at the bit to get going.”

The real business is looming more sharply into view now.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times