Bent should go through the correct process before Ireland selection
The A team is a difficult team to play for because outside of the team no one cares. The national team, rightly have the limelight. There were no big crowds, no media hype. The only people who knew if you gave your all were your team-mates. My two seasons with the As were hugely enjoyable because of the players’ physical and emotional commitment to the green jersey. The A team was important to the players because it was an Irish team.
In many ways the non-indigenous players had added pressure to perform.
If they did not play well unjust accusations of “not caring” were quickly made.
I have a saying that “An Irish wolfhound born outside of Ireland is still an Irish wolfhound, but the judges at the dog show are suspicious”.
There is no doubting the pedigree of the latest player from the diaspora, Michael Bent. You don’t play tighthead for Taranaki and the Hurricanes without being talented, tough and skilful. He has great potential for both Leinster and Ireland.
For the sake of the young man, I hope he is given the opportunity to play several games for Leinster before being selected for Ireland.
This process is important for the integrity of the national jersey and for Michael himself.
Successful players from the diaspora have firstly become part of the Irish rugby community by serving their province so their performance and character could be assessed.
Once their commitment to Irish rugby is confirmed they were able to compete as an Irishman for national selection.
The unsuccessful players from the diaspora were parachuted into Irish teams. They did not earn the respect of their team-mates or the public. This was not their fault. It was the fault of the selectors.
Wisdom from selectors and officials is required for both Michael Bent’s future and the value of the national jersey.
The Irish rugby communities have taken the great players from the diaspora into their heart as their own. They also remember with scorn the failed “Plastic Paddies” selected into teams without doing the yards and so cheapening the value of the green jersey.
The best advice I could give Michael is to know that even if he regards himself as an Irish New Zealander, most people born in Ireland simply can’t get their head around this concept. Don’t try and explain it to them because they are not listening.
Accept that when you return to Ireland from the diaspora the indigenous people are extremely cynical about your intentions and motivation.
The only way to prove yourself and your commitment to Ireland is by playing, and playing bloody well.