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Front row strength makes Heinke proud

HEINKE VAN DER MERWE was not about to trade secrets as to whether Michael Bent gave him a worse time in the Ireland-South Africa international than Mike Ross does at Leinster's live scrum sessions.

"Both are great. It is the first time that I've played against Bent but I have played with Ross a few times.

"It was a great experience to be part of that (Ireland Test) as well," he said.

Leinster's other international loosehead has just been through a hectic three weeks where he added caps two, three and four for the Springboks against Ireland, Scotland and England.

The addition of Bent, a proven tighthead in New Zealand, gives Leinster international standard scrummaging on both sides of two international hookers in Richardt Strauss and Sean Cronin.

Those live sessions are driven by Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek and club captain Leo Cullen who has often cited the value of going hell-for-leather in that specialist area from his days at Leicester Tigers.

"Yes, that's the benefit and that's what you need - the competition. It brings out the best in players," offered Van der Merwe.

"I think, at the end of the day, that it has to be like as close to a game as possible. That is the best practice for the guys and that is what we will do in the next couple of weeks."

Indeed, the front row is an area where Leinster are making a considerable investment in time and money to unearth battle-ready operators.

The province was able to survive at Glasgow Warriors in the Pro12 last Friday without the half-dozen players mentioned above, the baton taken up by the next six in the pecking order.

"Even the A team that went away to Connacht put out another six front rowers (last Friday) to add to the six we had (against Glasgow) and the six that were away, so that bodes pretty well for us," added Schmidt.

Suddenly, the front row seems to be a flourishing resource at Leinster. It has taken time.