Andrew Porter lost 4kg in the heat against Romania but he’s ‘champing at the bit’ to go again

Visit to children’s hospital an ‘incredibly humbling’ experience for the Irish prop

Irish team manager Mick Kearney led a delegation of four Irish players, Andrew Porter, Joe McCarthy, Mack Hansen and Bundee Aki, to a hospital for children battling cancer in Tours on Monday.

The visit to Clocheville Children’s Hospital had particular resonance for Porter, who lost his mum Wendy to cancer when he was just 12-years-old.

“It was amazing seeing the incredible work the doctors are doing in the children’s hospital. It’s obviously a charity that’s close to my heart, so it was incredibly humbling seeing how brave those kids were, and being able to brighten their day.

“It meant a lot to myself, and I’m sure the other players who were there as well. Just being able to see how brave those kids are, how hard they fight every day for where they are, it’s incredible to see.”


“As an ambassador for the Cancer Society, I’m going to use it as best I can to help and try to make other people’s lives a bit better,” said Porter, who is involved in fundraisers for the Society, but admitted: “What I do is nothing compared to what the actual volunteers and the people who work there in the Irish Cancer Society do in their day-to-day work.”

Although he claims to have “pulled up all right” after Ireland’s 82-8 Rugby World Cup win over Romanian, his 50-minute shift in temperatures which touched 37 degrees took its toll.

“I think I’m still struggling from the heat a bit, heat shock or something! That’s the hottest I have ever played in. You probably noticed by my skin colour, I was like a strawberry!”

Porter admitted he lost 4kg in weight during the game.

“It’s all water weight really. We get it from our nutritionist day-in, day-out; hydration is the most important thing with the heat and obviously for injury prevention as well.

“It’s something we’ve come to, I wouldn’t say enjoy, but be able to endure a small bit.”

Porter is likely to be involved again in Ireland’s second Pool B game in Nantes on Saturday in the Stade de la Beaujoire (kick-off 9pm local time/’8pm Irish), when the long-range forecast suggests it will be hot, humid and wet, as was the case when Ireland beat Samoa 17-13 in their final warm-up game in Bayonne two and a half weeks ago.

The expectation is that Porter will have to put in a big shift at this World Cup and if that comes to pass, so be it.

“On this stage, in the World Cup, representing your country, there’s nothing I’d rather do. It’s an honour for me if I’m named this week and if I’m named in further match day 23s, it’s an honour. It’s an honour let alone just to be part of this special World Cup squad, but being named in a team is one of the biggest honours I hold dear to me.

“So, if I was named, it wouldn’t be like: ‘Jeez, I have to play this week.’ It’s more: ‘I get to play this week, I’m incredibly lucky given so many players might not have made the cut.’ So, it’s something I look forward to every week.

“Sometimes it’s tough. When you’re in midseason and you’re rolled out nearly every week, it is tough, but we’re pretty much at the start of the season here and everyone’s champing at the bit to go.”

Nor are Tonga exactly lightweight up front.

“They have an incredibly experienced frontrow, Ben Tameifuna and [Siegfried] Fisi’ihoi,” said Porter of the 32-year-old Bordeaux loosehead and the 36-year-old Pau tighthead, who weigh in at 146kg (23 stone) and 124kg (19st 10lbns) respectively.

“They’re incredibly experienced, big boys as well. They pride themselves on physicality and getting physical dominance as well. They’re not just big ball-carries, they have skill and that flair as well in the pack and especially across the backline. We know exactly how to prepare for it but it’s just about going out and putting in a performance against an incredibly well-coached team.”

In the bigger picture, Porter does not believe this squad has any hang-ups about previous Irish World Cups that have come up short.

“I think we all have the belief that we can go and win. I don’t think anyone is too bothered with what’s happened in the past. Obviously there’s lads that have been in three World Cups and four World Cups, and it’s incredible to have their experience in the squad, but there’s not one player in the squad who doesn’t believe we can go and do this.

“So, I don’t think there is really any hang-ups about whatever you call it,” he paused, smiling, before saying, almost mockingly, “the curse.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times