Bent's cameo proves he's made of the tight stuff
With concerns over Michael Bent’s Irishness now largely irrelevant – the 10 minute cameo against South Africa makes him one of us – it should be considered that Mike Ross may not last as long with Ireland as John Hayes.
Take the previous five Ireland internationals. Ross went off injured at Twickenham on St Patrick’s Day, missed the first Test in New Zealand through injury, was replaced in the third and looked in serious discomfort when the scrum collapsed after 63 minutes of Saturday’s 16-12 defeat.
The Springbok pack smelled blood in the water and Ross’s Leinster team-mate Heinke van der Merwe was serenaded six minutes later having twisted Ross into the dirt for a second time.
The resulting penalty allowed Patrick Lambie put daylight between the teams.
Two scrums later and Bent was being back-slapped by his new team-mates for doing to van der Merwe what van der Merwe did to Ross.
“At any stage out on the field when something goes well and you got guys patting you on the back it always feels great,” said Bent yesterday. “I was stoked to get that.”
He might have to get “stoked” out of his vocabulary; perhaps “delighted” instead.
The Leinster coaches must be cursing recent developments. Both of their tightheads, both looseheads and both hookers are on international duty for the rest of the month, with van der Merwe retained by the Springboks as Tendai Mtawarira was sent home with heart palpitations.
There was no injury update provided on Ross but it would be dangerous to presume the damage he sustained is not serious, especially considering Munster’s Stephen Archer has been called up for training this week ahead of the Fiji game in Limerick.
At least Archer’s arrival in Carton House appears to have put to bed the notion that the Tony Buckley experiment would be revisited.
Same goes for John Andress.
Anyway, Taranaki prop Bent, of Rathmines descent, came before the assembled media yesterday and played a straight bat, especially on the issue of being parachuted into the Ireland squad before his Leinster debut.
“Yeah, I knew there were a few mixed opinions out there. I respect that, people are entitled to have their own opinion, but for me I was coming into the team and I was asked if I wanted to be a part of it and having Irish heritage, which I am very proud of, it was certainly something I was never going to turn down.
“I didn’t read too much what was going around in the media. Anyone I have bumped into in the public and had a chat with have been really positive and made me feel welcome. I felt really good about being part of it.”
Ross is 33 next month, while Bent is still only 26 and on the evidence of four international scrums he appears to be up for the job.
Not to dampen the party but the finishing South African frontrow last Saturday had never even trained together before. They took the field without the best loosehead (Mtawarira) and hooker (Bismarck du Plessis) in the world, while CJ van der Linde is a pale shadow of the prop that won a world cup medal in 2007.
Ultimately though, selecting Bent was a rugby decision made easy by last Tuesday’s scrummaging session. That’s when the Ireland coaches knew they could trust him.
“He’s now an international tighthead but we all knew going into the game what he was capable of doing,” said forwards coach Anthony Foley. “It wasn’t a surprise to us.”