Leicester Tigers’ Premiership title win was packed with fascinating subplots. From Freddie Burns’ completing his ‘unfinished business’ in his second spell at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, to the resurgence of club veterans like Dan Cole, to the emergence of recent academy graduates to become top-level performers.
So it’s easy for journeys like the one made by Guy Porter to get a little lost in the wash. Under 48 hours after playing his part in the 15-12 triumph over Saracens, the versatile back with a thick Australian accent was called up by England for their three-Test tour Down Under along with team-mates Ollie Chessum, Joe Heyes, Freddie Steward, Jack van Poortvliet and Ellis Genge.
Here’s all you need to know about the latest call-up…
If he sounds Australian, why is he being called up by England?
He was born here! Porter was born in Kensington and lived in this country and played his junior rugby as Rosslyn Park before moving to Australia at the age of seven.
What happened next in his rugby career?
Fortunately, he kept his rugby journey going in his new surroundings and impressed as a schoolboy to the extent he was recruited by Sydney University by Rob Taylor.
Rob Taylor, that name rings a bell…
It should if you’re a Tigers fan, the New Zealander was an assistant coach at Leicester Tigers in June 2020 before being released from his contract five months later on compassionate grounds. While his time at the club was brief, he did play a key role in bringing Porter and fellow Sydney University star Harry Potter to Tigers.
Did Porter make the grade at Super Rugby level?
After shining for Sydney Stars and Sydney Rays in Australia’s National Rugby Championship, as well as the NSW Waratahs Under-20s, in September 2019, at the age of 22, Porter signed for the Brumbies in a move he called ‘a dream come true’.
Then came the global pandemic that forced the suspension of the 2020 Super Rugby season.
What was said when he joined Tigers?
Let us remember where Tigers were as a club when Porter arrived. It was during the five-month break in the 2019/20 season, which for every club was traumatic, but few felt it more keenly than Tigers. Following a dispute over revised contracts, they lost centres Manu Tuilagi and Kyle Eastmond and gaps in the squad needed to be filled.
Director of rugby Geordan Murphy took on advice from Taylor and highlighted Porter’s versatility when he was revealed as a Tigers player. “He adds versatile depth to our backline and is a player who builds his game on hard work, which is what we are about here in Leicester.”
That versatility would definitely become a huge asset, long after Murphy’s departure.
How did Porter’s Tigers debut season go?
Porter’s Tigerd debut was Bath at home, August 22, 2020. Porter started at inside centre and was enjoying life as Jonny McPhillips landed two early penalties against a visiting side that was in the hunt for the Gallagher Premiership top four. However, in the space of 36 minutes, Tigers shipped 38 unanswered points, and a 50 point-plus margin of defeat seemed possible. Fortunately, the bench made an impact and a couple of late ties closed the final score to 38-16 in favour of Bath.
Porter played the full 80 minutes, he made more tackles (10) than any other back on the pitch and was frequently used as a running option into some heavy traffic.
He would feature in subsequent defeats to Gloucester, Sale Sharks and Wasps – where he also picked up a late yellow card in a record loss at the Coventry Building Society Arena.
Porter finally came out on the winning team at the fifth time of asking, however, he was forced off seven minutes before half-time after suffering a head injury against Northampton Saints, a match best remembered for Ben Youngs opening the scoring on the occasion of his 250th first-team appearance for the club.
The only way was up in his first full campaign in 2020/21?
His first six appearances that season saw Porter wear four different numbers on his back; 12, 23, 14 and 11. The real breakthrough came in the European Challenge Cup knock-out stages when he scored in the wins over Connacht (left wing) and Ulster (right wing) – his first points for the club – before being selected to start the final against Montpellier which Tigers lost by a single point.
Injuries and the form of others limited him to just 14 frontline starts, but there was plenty of reason to suggest there was more room for growth enter the 2021/22 season.
So 2021/22, was it all sunshine and rainbows?
Not to being with. Despite starting and finishing the epic 13-12 win over Saracens at outside centre, disaster struck a week later. Porter arrived as a 53rd-minute replacement for Matt Scott away at London Irish but hobbled off 10 minutes later to be replaced by Freddie Burns. The calf injury kept him out of action for a month before returning to face Bath in November – this time he was on the winning side as Tigers triumphed 40-23.
Was there a turning point for Porter personally?
I believe so, and it came in the Premiership Rugby Cup. Derided by many, the competition not only gives youngsters a chance to impress but for players on the fringes of squads to impress too. Porter started at outside centre against Sale Sharks, scoring once, and remained there the following week against Wasps, adding two more tries to his tally. Respectfully to the cup squad, he looked a level above many of his team-mates in those wins.
His next try would come away in Bordeaux as Tigers edged a fierce Heineken Champions Cup pool stage game 16-13. He would feature in the next 10 games, scoring a crucial match-winning try against Bristol Bears.
A red card away in Clermont was the only blot on his copybook as he rushed up in the defensive line and collided with a player, Fritz Lee, who was without the ball. That was his last run out at outside centre this season.
So why the recent switch to inside centre?
Dan Kelly’s hamstring went twang, that’s why. It’s a measurement of how good Porter has been, that the influential 21-year-old’s absence hasn’t been too keenly felt in the run-in to the Premiership final.
Starts against Bristol, Leinster, Newcastle and Wasps in the 12 shirt followed before switching to the left wing for Kelly’s return in the semi-final against Northampton Saints. Sadly for him, that lasted only a matter of minutes before limping off. Leicester’s solution was ready and waiting as Porter moved infield, Freddie Steward switched to the wing and Freddie Burns slotted in at full-back.
What is his best position and what can England fans expect?
Porter has been impressive in every position he has played, so it really is difficult to pick a ‘best’ role. I’d say on the balance of things, outside centre allows his running game to shine and it’s from that position where the bulk of his nine tries have come this season.
But this is the fantastic thing about having Porter in your squad, he can fulfil so many roles, it’s very appealing to make him your number 23 for a Test match given the bases he can cover.
Defensively, he hits hard and chases kicks relentlessly. In attack, Porter is a fine runner of the ball with a powerful stride and looks after possession. Even the way he finishes tries impresses, wrapping the ball up firmly between his elbows with a vice-like grip, there’s no one-handed placement and a wave to the fans from Porter. He’s business-like, professional, versatile and impactful on both sides of the ball, and has an eye for the line too.
After featuring in 27 games of a remarkable season, during which he also signed an extended contract, Porter is totally deserving of this international opportunity and take his game on to the next level.