Andrew Porter looking to box smart by sorting his scrum issues for Champions Cup final

Leinster prop Andrew Porter (Image: ©INPHO/Evan Treacy)

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Andrew Porter admits he needs a scrum quick-fix before taking on man mountain Uini Atonio in Saturday's Champions Cup final.

But he insists that if Leinster "play smart" against La Rochelle they will achieve their hoped for fifth tournament victory.

The 26-year-old switched back to loosehead from tighthead ahead of this season.

It was an experiment that worked for Leinster and Ireland – transforming both front rows into one of Europe's most dynamic.

Yet there have been moments when Porter has struggled and that must be addressed before he faces La Rochelle's 37-year-old French international Atonio, who weighs over 30kg more than the Dubliner.

“It's huge," Porter said. "I played against him against France. Hey, it didn't go our way and we'll be looking back to La Rochelle last season as well.

“It's about learning from those days and boxing smart. Here look, we're just really excited for the opportunity. It's really exciting.

"Look, all we have to do is play smart. That's a huge thing about us.

"We might not be the biggest team in Europe but we've some of the smartest players in the world playing.

“We'll be trying to keep the pace high. That's something we really pride ourselves on.

"Hey look, we know exactly how big those French packs are, that's something they use with their power game in their scrum and maul.

“We know exactly what to look for. We can't wait to get back out there.”

Leinster coughed up nine scrum penalties in their last two European games, against Leicester Tigers and Toulouse.

Porter is quick to hold his hand up and insists that the scrum issues aren't part of a bigger malaise for Leo Cullen to address.

“Particularly because it’s kind of my side, it’s not a huge pack thing that we're looking at," Porter stressed.

"I’m trying to fix those mistakes against Leicester and Toulouse. It’s little small things – it’s not trying to reinvent the wheel here.

"You're trying to fine-tune things. That’s what you really need against La Rochelle's pack.

"We’ll have to be on top of our game in that sense – and myself in particular.”

Porter isn't interested in blaming his transition back to loosehead for his struggles.

“Look, it could be that but every game you play, you're playing against different opposition that scouted you so they know exactly what to look for," he said.

"Every game is different, every scrum you hit is different. You need to be able to learn out on the pitch as well."

A prop in the modern game can't just be judged on scrummaging either, even if it is a crucial factor.

They must also be able to contribute around the pitch, and in Porter and Tadhg Furlong, Leinster have two stand-out players in that regard.

Porter says it is something he has worked hard on. "Definitely," he remarked. "It is about being an all-round player.

"I try to be that all round player with off the ball work as well and not just carrying and tackling.

"My work rate and fitness, I've been trying to finetune that to be the best player I can be.

"It’s not just myself that has that expectation to be a better ball player.

"We want everyone to be comfortable on the ball and be good around the park as well because of the speed we play at.

"Sure you see Tadhg Furlong and how skilful he is – I'm just trying to work my way up to be as skilful as him some day.”

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Gabriel Jesus transfer pursuit shows problem facing Arsenal in summer window

Arsenal are shopping for strikers from a place of obvious weakness this summer and the early stages of their Gabriel Jesus pursuit show just how difficult things might be

Gabriel Jesus is a primary target for Arsenal this summer (Image: Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)ByFelix KeithNational Network Sports Writer

  • 05:00, 25 May 2022
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The season is over and Arsenal know their lot – now they have the very tricky task of navigating the summer transfer window and coming out the other side in a stronger position.

There are many facets to that, but arguably the most important comes up front, where the Gunners are extremely thin on the ground. None of this is new – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang left in January and Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette’s contractual situations have been bubbling away for months – but that doesn’t diminish the importance.

Mikel Arteta managed to steer the side to fifth place in the Premier League with the aforementioned strikers. If the Gunners’ hierarchy want an improvement on that then they need to act fast, because they are facing some major disadvantages.

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Firstly – and perhaps most significantly – Arsenal cannot offer potential signings Champions League football next season. When you’re shopping from the top shelf, that is an issue, especially if you have been dangling that particular carrot to attract players in previous months, when the team appeared to be on course to finish in fourth.

Secondly, selling clubs know all about Arsenal’s current position. They are buying from a position of weakness and could reach July 1 with zero contracted senior strikers in the squad. Arteta has been clear about his desire to keep Nketiah, and Lacazette could yet stay too , but even if one – or both – does, they will still need major reinforcements.

Arsenal are desperate for strikers and every other club in Europe knows this. That means they come into any negotiations with the upper hand: they can play hard ball and demand inflated fees. The looming spectre of Dusan Vlahovic could prompt Arsenal to be more decisive; the way they missed out on the Serbian striker to Juventus may have far-reaching consequences.

HAVE YOUR SAY! Should Arsenal fork out to sign Gabriel Jesus this summer? Comment below.

Mikel Arteta knows Gabriel Jesus from his time at Man City

Matt McNulty/Getty Images)

It is in this context that Arsenal’s pursuit of Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus must be viewed. The Gunners have been in contact with Pep Guardiola's side over a deal for Jesus, who knows Arteta from his time working as a coach at Man City.

According to ESPN , City have slapped a £55million price tag on Jesus, despite the Brazilian being out of contract in June 2023. Unsurprisingly, Arsenal are understood to be unhappy with that valuation, given they could wait a year and get their man without having to pay a penny in transfer fees.

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Jesus appears a good fit in many respects. He knows Arteta, is reportedly keen on the Arsenal project where he’d be top dog, rather than second fiddle behind Erling Haaland, is approaching his peak at 25, and comes with plenty of experience, having contributed 95 goals and 46 assists in 236 appearances for Man City. But is he worth £55m?

Arsenal showed they weren’t shy to splash the cash last summer, shelling out over £150m on six new players. But while a top-quality striker is their most pressing current concern, it is far from the only one, with a big turnover of players expected in north London.

Jesus therefore could make or break Arsenal’s transfer plans. Land him early on this summer for a reasonable transfer fee and they will have made a serious statement of intent. Miss out on his signature, or pay way over market value, and risk scuppering what are, presumably, well-laid plans.

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  • Mo Salah doubles down on Champions League stance with fresh Liverpool message

    Liverpool face Real Madrid in the Champions League final on Saturday, and Mohamed Salah’s desperation to seek ‘revenge’ has been highlighted by his message on social media

    Mohamed Salah is desperate to win the Champions League (Image: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)ByJoseph McBrideFootball Trend Writer

    • 06:00, 25 May 2022
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    Mohamed Salah kept it brief with a four word message to his followers on social media, but it said more than enough about his intentions ahead of Saturday's Champions League final.

    Liverpool's fantastic season is almost over, and they have the chance to complete a trio of cup competition wins when they meet Real Madrid in the Champions League final. Unfortunately for Jurgen Klopp's side, the quadruple is no longer achievable after Manchester City pipped them to the Premier League title.

    But their near miss may work in their favour as they have now been given extra motivation to end the season on a high. And Salah posted a message to excite the Liverpool fans, as he said: "We're not done yet."

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    It's been one of the greatest seasons in Liverpool's history, and Klopp's side could complete the treble with a win over Madrid on Saturday. And for Salah, it's been an exceptional individual display over the past nine months as he scooped up the Premier League golden boot (shared with Son Heung-min) and the playmaker award.

    But Salah couldn't crack a smile as he posed with his individual awards on the final day, and it proves just where his mindset is at. Salah has endured a strange mixture of elation and heartbreak this season, with his fair share of near misses to go along with outright success.

    The Egyptian suffered a brutal Africa Cup of Nations final defeat against Senegal with his national side, and he didn't even get the chance to step up from the spot as the game went to a penalty shootout. And Salah was again feeling the frustration from 12 yards, as Senegal stopped Egypt once again, this time from making the World Cup at the final hurdle.

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    Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

    Salah did star for Liverpool as they won the Carabao Cup final at Wembley, but he was forced off during the recent FA Cup final, a feeling he knows all too well. Salah was left in tears back in 2018, as a collision with Sergio Ramos ended his Champions League final prematurely, and Liverpool went on to lose 3-1.

    He was the hero inside two minutes a year later, as Liverpool beat Tottenham to win the tournament thanks to an early Salah penalty, followed by a late Divock Origi strike. But Liverpool's near miss in the Premier League, along with his unfortunate record in finals will surely inspire Salah to step up and finally get his big moment on the main stage.

    It's not just business for Salah, the final against Madrid is personal, and Liverpool fans can expect to see a focused, ruthless forward in Paris. Salah has even admitted that he's been hoping to face Madrid, and has even called their upcoming clash a 'revenge' mission.

    Mohamed Salah was forced off with a shoulder injury against Real Madrid

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    After Madrid stunned City to reach the final, Salah again took to social media and teased fans as he claimed that he has a 'score to settle'. And Salah even spoke on BT Sport and admitted that he was hoping to face Madrid over City.

    "I want to play Madrid," the forward told BT Sport. "We lost in the final against them, so I want to play against them and hopefully win it from them as well."

    It would be the perfect way to cap off a crazy season for Liverpool, and they have the added advantage that the European crown has been won by the club in Paris before, and coincidentally it was against Madrid. The 1981 European Cup final ended 1-0 to Liverpool, with a late Alan Kennedy goal seperating the sides.

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