Monday 24 April 2017

'We don't want to give up our position at top'

The Big Interview: Michael Bent

Michael Bent. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Bent. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Bent in action for Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Bent goes through his paces at training in UCD earlier this week. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Marcus Ó Buachalla

Five years on from his arrival on these shores Michael Bent is happy to reflect on all that has gone before and all that is ahead. Water under the bridge.

"I suppose when I first arrived I was straight into an Irish set-up and that was without having proven myself for Leinster first. It was a huge honour of course to pick up those caps but it wasn't ideal and received a lot of attention."

Fast forward to August 2015 and the circumstances could not have been more different.

"That's what made last season all the sweeter. Getting back into the Irish set-up off the back of my performances for Leinster. That's what we all want, what we all strive for. To be recognised for your performances on the pitch and I took huge satisfaction from that knowing that my form was of a requisite standard to be acknowledged at the highest level."

He's not of a mind to dwell on the fact that the World Cup selection didn't go his way, instead proud to reflect on the performances and the caps that did.

"I always say it that it makes me very proud any time I make it into an Irish camp but then you put the head down again and work hard to get selected so it was a huge moment to make those pre-World Cup games against Wales and Scotland.

"Of course I was disappointed but you wish the boys well and hope the tournament goes well for them. I suppose the frustrating thing then was after that I would have liked to have kicked on and got more game time with Leinster last season but it wasn't to be. But I've parked that now and am just focused on doing as best as I can for Leinster and in the back of your mind you would always have an eye on that green jersey again."

He certainly has time on his side as he only turned 30 earlier this year and his versatility on both sides of the scrum has been a huge asset to Leinster. But as he sets his sights on a trip to Scarlets this weekend, he can't afford to get too distracted either.

"Absolutely - for all of us, all we can control is the next game and that's Scarlets this weekend and that's enough of a task to occupy the minds as it is.

Decent

"If you look at last season, they were the highest-ranked Welsh team in the Guinness Pro12 and have had a decent start again this season with five wins and another win in the Champions Cup against Sale.

"We've struggled there the last two seasons too so we're under no illusions how hard it will be but I think we also have to believe in what we are about and the settled squad that we have. We performed well against Zebre last time out with a similar set of players so I think we're in a good place. It's a nice challenge to be setting our sights on."

About those trips to Wales the last two seasons. Two losses and no losing bonus points to show either, you need to go back to September 2013 for the last Leinster win in Parc y Scarlets.

"It's not one thing or the other but I think you have to give massive credit to them too and how they play and the style of rugby that they have. We'll have a massive challenge in the pack this weekend and they've got players outside that can hurt you with the boot and with ball in hand. A complete team really."

While Leinster were on a week off, Scarlets on the other hand were keeping themselves busy in the Anglo-Welsh Cup with games against Bath and the Dragons.

A rested team against a battle-hardened team is the simple way of viewing the game. Not for the New Zealand-born prop.

"I think the break was great being honest. We had a week off which allows the body and mind to refresh but then last week we had a really good week to focus back in and put serious time into detail and plays and certain things that we really wanted to focus on. Same this week as we focused on the match itself where we are able to lock it all down and get it right.

"They've played a few games but they've used those games to blood younger lads too so it's been a very different team out to what we'll face on Friday.

"They'll have taken some time off too I'm sure so I really think both teams will be in a good place come kick off time."

Time off for Bent has taken him to near and far over the last few months with a trip back home to tie the knot the highlight.

"We'd been planning it a while but Celyse and I managed to get home for a few weeks during the summer. It's just difficult with the seasons here with rugby but also the actual seasons in terms of a wedding but we were very lucky. So while it may have been winter at home when we did get married we actually got a brilliant day for it so it was lovely being home and getting to celebrate the day with our family and friends."

More recently the time off brought the newly-weds to the home of rugby and to the actual town of Rugby and the school where it all kicked off so to speak in 1845.

"We just took a few days off the week before last and went to the UK and spent a few days just wandering around the sights. Visited Warwick Castle which was very impressive and then visited the school in Rugby where the game of rugby originated.

Strangers

"We didn't realise though that they don't really encourage strangers walking around because it's still a working school so we were kind of chased off the grounds but thankfully we got talking to one of the staff and they were very helpful and gave us a short tour and spoke to us about the history of where it all began. Great place."

So from 1845 and the birthplace of rugby union to Llanelli and the Scarlets. Time to refocus on a game where he will win his 70th cap for the province.

"They've a massive few weeks ahead. Obviously our game gets them up and running again in the Pro12 but they also have Toulon coming just down the tracks in back to back Champions Cup games.

"They finished off their last game with a comprehensive win against Glasgow Warriors where the Warriors only scored one penalty so they'll see this as a great opportunity to kick-start the next block of games.

"But we have our own targets too and we don't want to give up our position at the top of the Pro12 and we'll be giving it everything to ensure we don't."

Irish Independent

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