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Bent to prop up options as Healy sweats

IT has emerged that Leinster loose-head Cian Healy could be Ireland's main injury concern ahead of the November internationals.

Team Manager Mick Kearney confirmed Healy "will have his shoulder reviewed by a specialist in the next couple of days".

This certainly implies that there is concern over one of the main tools for doing his job -- a prop goes nowhere with a depowered arm or shoulder.

It is not thought to be connected to the bicep strain that occurred against Connacht at the end of last month and prevented Healy from putting his shoulder to the wheel against Munster at the Aviva Stadium.

Kearney was keen to push the Irish credentials of immediate Ireland squad member Michael Bent, whose grandmother grew up in Rathmines, Dublin, before meeting her Kiwi husband in Wales during World War 2.

Bent's sister, Kim, has been living in Dublin for a number of years and the presence of a close family member should assist his immersion into Irish rugby.

The Taranaki prop will make his way to Leinster for training tomorrow, return to Carton House on Thursday, before the Irish management make a decision on his availability for his club in the PRO12 League.

"Basically, he is a tight-head. He came off the bench for the Hurricanes five times in the recent Super-15, five times as a loose-head. It is a 22-man squad in the Super-15, not a 23. He was covering both sides of the scrum.

"In last year's Super-15, he played two full games at tight-head and came off the bench, I think, another four times as a tight-head.

"He played 12 out of 13 times for Taranaki this season, all at tight-head, and every time he has played for 80 minutes.

"So, he is a tight-head, who can play on the loose-head rather than the other way around," stressed Kearney.

"It was felt that he is the holder of an Irish passport. He is qualified to play for Ireland. The fact that he is match fit and has been playing tight-head up to two weeks ago was a massive consideration, considering the injury concerns we would have in that position going forward".

It was not clear how or if this related to Healy given that Bent can operate effectively on both sides of the scrum.

After all, Declan Fitzpatrick has played twice this season, 12 times last season and 15 times in 2010-2011 in what has been an injury-plagued career thus far.

Veteran Ireland second row Donncha O'Callaghan did not seem to mind the instant promotion of Bent: "My personal opinion is that you want to have the strongest team.

"I don't think it is bending the rules in any way. It is something other countries have been using for an awful long time. Maybe, we don't look into it an awful lot," said O'Callaghan.

He cited the passion and commitment of centre Kevin Maggs as the perfect example of how second or third generation Irishmen can buy into the jersey. "I think it is a good policy. Let the best players play. Let's pick from what we can."

Typically, O'Callaghan introduced a witty twist on the immediate use of Bent: "Tight-heads are sound. If it was an out-half or a nine, you would have some reservation. Tight-head. Dead on."

Kearney confirmed captain Brian O'Driscoll's ankle ligament damage "is not as severe as first feared".

Nonetheless, Kearney did add the caveat that it was less than 48 hours since the ankle turned at the RDS and the medical staff would "monitor the active phase of the injury".

While lock Paul O'Connell, fly-half Ronan O'Gara and flanker Stephen Ferris will train fully, hooker Rory Best stayed at home in Ulster because of "soreness" to his neck.

Scrum-half Eoin Reddan (knee) will have his workload managed for the remainder of the week. Centre Gordon D'Arcy (dead leg) won't train for a few days.


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