Three months into life at Connacht Rugby and tonight, new recruit Ian Porter will earn his fourth cap and second start against the in-form team of the league Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Stadium (kick off 19:35).

The Banbridge-born scrum half joined Connacht Rugby during the summer, coming from Ulster Rugby where he had been a part of the professional set up for three seasons.

Growing up in Co. Down, Porter has very fond memories of playing rugby with his home club:

“I started playing with the minis at Banbridge RFC when I was about 7 or 8. I also thought I’d become a footballer so I gave that a shot for a year. But then at school (Banbridge Academy) it was either rugby or hockey you played so I picked rugby and played all through my school years.

“It wasn’t until I left school and was playing with Queens University that I made it onto the Ulster U19’s. Playing with Queens University for those 3 -4 years was like an extension of school because you were playing with guys you grew up with. We won the All Ireland League division 3 and got promoted as well as winning the Ulster Senior Cup.

“After that I went back to my home club Banbridge and captained the side last year. I absolutely loved that because that’s where it all started. “

Having come through the Ulster Academy and played all his rugby in his home province, the 26-year-old admits his move to Connacht was somewhat daunting:

“It was the first time I’d ever joined another club outside of Ulster so I was coming in to somewhere new where I didn’t know anyone or how things were done. But I have to say it’s been very easy to fit in. They’re a great group of lads who have made me feel very welcome from the start.

Asked about the different aspects he has found interesting, Porter said:

“Ultimately wherever you play, you’re all there to play rugby and to win games but there are different ways of doing things.

“I like the way we do things here.  There’s a great team atmosphere and it’s nice to experience a different side of coaching. If you don’t challenge yourself, you can get a bit stale or complacent. It’s been very refreshing for me. “

The former Ireland U20’s scrum half had experienced playing at the Sportsground with Ulster last season but it was last week when he came on in the closing stages of the game against Leinster that will stand out in his memory:

“It was just a great game to be a part of. The atmosphere was unbelievable. I know the attendance was six thousand but you’d think there was over double that there with the noise – especially at the end when we finally kicked the ball out.

“That noise and support does help, especially in those tight games. It’s funny though – I have friends who come to games and say ‘oh did you hear me shouting at you on the 5m line?’ but I don’t hear what they’re saying. If you’re on the bench the crowd can really get you pumped up as you’re going on but when I’m on the pitch I’m just too concentrated to be able to hear it all. “

Speaking about the on-pitch celebrations last Friday night after the final whistle, Porter said:

“It was just such relief I suppose. We were leading by a point for so long and Leinster had the ball for a lot of that time so the defensive effort needed was just massive.

“We had definitely done enough to deserve the win and it was just great to hear that whistle.”

Porter had heard a lot about the Connacht supporters prior to his arrival and reveals that the Connacht Clan have lived up to his expectations:

“They are a very passionate and extremely approachable bunch. On match days, whenever we’re walking over from meetings or sessions, they’re always out saying ‘good luck’ and you’ll get the high-fives from the kids. You feel closer to them and it’s very much a rugby club atmosphere which I really like.

This season Porter joins Ireland international Kieran Marmion, John Cooney, on loan from Leinster Rugby, and Academy scrum half Caolin Blade in the push for the number 9 jersey.

“There is good competition between us all and we go out and do kicking together during the day. We always try to have a bit of competition in the sessions, maybe someone has to buy the other a coffee depending on the drill. It’s a bit of craic.

“Personally, I definitely want to get more game time. I know Kieran has had a great start to the season and he’s had two great seasons before that. But increasingly rugby is not a 15-man game anymore. With the intensity of the games and the amount of games you have to play, it comes down to a wider squad effort.  So all I want to do is push for that starting spot. I want to be out on the pitch playing. “

Recognised for his tactical kicking, Porter has also developed his place kicking abilities and was the designated goal-kicker at the 2008 U20’s IRB Junior World Championship, landing a memorable last minute penalty to win the match against Italy.

“Yea I enjoy the place kicking a lot. Even when I was very young, I was never that interested in scoring tries I just wanted to kick the ball. There’s nothing like the feeling of kicking the ball well.

“I work on that area of my game during the week with the other kickers Jack (Carty), Craig (Ronaldson) and Darragh (Leader). Andre Bell (Backs & Kicking Coach) would have us in for kicking slots, one after the other throughout the week. And after training, I’ll try and get out myself and kick a few balls.”

Connacht have enjoyed a good start to the PRO12 campaign with three wins from three and Porter believes that it is vital to get those tight wins early on in the season in order to achieve the ultimate goal of a top-six finish.

“Getting a good start to the season is huge. Every team is going to have a difficult patch and no team goes unbeaten. So the better you start the better position you put yourself in to bounce back from that odd week when it just doesn’t happen for you.

“Having such a clear goal for the season is brilliant. It’s not wishy-washy where you say ‘oh we want to do better than last year’ and then if you don’t, you don’t. We’ve set our stall out early and everyone knows what our big goal is. At the end of the season, we’ll be able to see whether we achieved it or not.  

“There’s a united feeling that we can definitely compete at the top table of Europe and why shouldn’t we get there on our own merit.”

Of Porter’s three PRO12 caps for Ulster last season, one came when he was named in the starting XV for the visit of Glasgow Warriors to Ravenhill in September 2013. Once again, he comes up against Scottish international Henry Pyrgos tonight:

It will be interesting.  Glasgow are definitely the in-form team at the moment. They’ve always been hugely physical and it’s probably going to be one of our toughest games of the season.”

Glasgow Warriors v Connacht
Scotstoun Stadium
Friday 26th September
Kick off 19:35

No TV – Follow #CRLive updates from our Twitter account @ConnachtRugby
Also live on BBC Radio Scotland

Referee: Cladio Blessano (FIR, 6th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Mike Adamson, Stephen Ward (both SRU)
Citing Commissioner: John Montgomery (SRU)

 

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