Bent in line for Springboks baptism of fire as 'all options open' for Irish
MICHAEL BENT could make his Ireland debut against South Africa on Saturday week, less than two weeks after first setting foot in the country.
Ireland manager Michael Kearney has confirmed that the New Zealander -- who had never been to Ireland before arriving on Sunday -- is a live option to start on the bench against the Springboks as cover for tighthead prop Mike Ross.
Bent is one of two men vying for the bench position in Ireland's match-day squad, with Ulster's Declan Fitzpatrick his sole rival for the spot.
The 26-year-old, who qualifies to play for Ireland through his maternal grandmother, spent yesterday getting to know his new team-mates and the Ireland playbook at Carton House as training got up and running ahead of the Guinness Series.
"It is a big challenge for him, it is a stressful environment for him to get straight off a flight from New Zealand and go straight into an Ireland squad. He has to handle that, but he has settled in well," Kearney said.
"We are keeping our options open in the squad. Declan just recently returned from injury. All options are open: Michael could play in one, two or even three games next month. It just depends on what happens in the next week or two."
Brian O'Driscoll continues to be monitored on a daily basis by the Ireland medical team.
The Irish captain is battling to recover in time from the ankle ligament injury he suffered playing for Leinster against Cardiff on Saturday.
Perhaps more worryingly for coach Declan Kidney, Rory Best has remained with Ulster having injured his neck at the weekend, while Cian Healy will see a specialist about a shoulder injury he sustained over the weekend.
Ronan O'Gara, Stephen Ferris, Keith Earls and Paul O'Connell are all expected to train this week after their recent injury woes.
Veteran second-row Donncha O'Callaghan said the players have no problem with Bent, and naturalised South African Richardt Strauss, coming into the set-up.
"You want to have the strongest team, you want players who can go out and perform at the top level. I don't think its bending the rules in any way, it is something that other countries have been using for an awful long time, maybe we don't look into an awful lot," he said.