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Bent call-up for autumn series a slap in face to native players

It is very much a slap in the face to the other Irish professional working tight-head props that Leinster's new signing Michael Bent should even be considered for the national camp.

This is no disparagement on Bent, an Irish-qualified New Zealander, who arrived in Dublin yesterday to find out he would bypass Leinster on his way to Carton House, joining the international squad preparing for the November series.

Surely Ireland's need to gather in world ranking points for the 2015 World Cup does not extend to promoting a player they have only seen on camera, never, or rarely, in a live match situation.

After all, Bent, 26, is not yet a proven operator, mustering 35 provincial caps for Taranaki and 11 Super-15 caps for the Wellington Hurricanes, for whom he made his debut against the Otago Highlanders in 2011.

This is not the curriculum vitae of a man who should bypass provincial rugby and go straight to the international set-up. This is not to say that he will not become a real gem for Leinster and for Ireland.



pathway

But, the 'pathway,' that modern-day buzzword, has been cleared of Leinster's Jamie Hagan, Connacht's Ronan Loughney and Munster's Stephen Archer.

Ulster tight-head Declan Fitzpatrick has also been added along with four backs in fellow Ulstermen Paul Marshall, Paddy Jackson and Craig Gilroy, and Connacht's Tiernan O'Halloran.

Ulster hooker Rory Best is nursing a knock, allowing Leinster's Sean Cronin to join Richardt Strauss on the roster, bringing the uncapped number to five out of the seven players added.

At tight-head, Ireland's first-choice Mike Ross started for Leinster against Cardiff Blues, Hagan coming on as a 55th-minute replacement.

Kiwi Nathan White -- the 28-year-old will be Ireland-qualified in 2014 -- played for Connacht against the Ospreys, Loughney appearing off the bench in the 67th minute.

Ulster's Fitzpatrick got through 57 minutes of work against the Dragons on Friday night, following a medial ligament injury, to add to his only other appearance of the season against the Ospreys in early September. He has won two Ireland caps.

Munster's Archer, a back-up to BJ Botha, showed he is still short of his target as a scrummager in the 29-3 defeat of Zebre, also on Friday.



scrummager

In fairness, Bent is battle hardened and known as a strong scrummager, showing up well against Canterbury in the National Provincial Championship semi-final last weekend.

"We have watched a fair bit of videotape of him. He scrummages really well on the tight-head and did a really good job against Canterbury last week," said Leinster coach Joe Schmidt.

"Canterbury probably set the standard with the likes of Wyatt Crockett and Ben Franks, both of whom have played a fair bit of time with the All Blacks.

"I guess they (Irish management) are just trying to make sure they've got a safety net. They are not my decisions to make. I would be a happy recipient of Michael Bent if he's not required because, going to Ospreys, there is a bit of scrum tidy-up stuff we need to do."

Ireland Squad Additions

(Club/Province/International Caps)

Sean Cronin (Leinster); Craig Gilroy (Ulster); Paddy Jackson (Ulster); Paul Marshall (Ulster); Tiernan O'Halloran (Connacht); Michael Bent (Leinster); Declan Fitzpatrick (Ulster).


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