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Bent 'absolutely stoked' to be living dream

Much has been made of Richardt Strauss' raucous rendition of 'Amhran na bhFiann' last Saturday; as public a proclamation of national allegiance that seemed humanly possible.

For Michael Bent, Irish rugby's other recently acquired import, his audition for the hearts and minds of a suspecting audience was a rather more private affair.

A venerable tradition, spanning many different sports, that prompts the newest member of a squad to engage in a ritualistic sing-song aboard the team bus enabled Bent to pass an arguably tougher initiation process.

The tune?

"Danny Boy," he smiles. And why not?

It is a tune historically associated with the Irish diaspora and Bent, who reveals that he has carried an Irish passport, clearly identifies himself with the countless millions of others sprinkled throughout the globe.

He did not have enough time to devote himself to learning the national anthem – and he suggests cheekily that his new Leinster colleague Strauss, who has spent three years here already, rather than three weeks, may just fancy himself as a better singer.

But in terms of his impact on the field on Saturday, in extracting an immediate profit from another Leinster colleague – Springbok loosehead Heinke van der Merwe – his claims to an Irish jersey were undeniable.

That there remains an unnerving disquiet to the seemingly rude haste with which he was propelled into the jersey of an Irish national system, whose propagation of props has been exposed as horribly deficient, does not necessarily detain him.

"I know there were a few mixed opinions out there and I respect that," says the former Taranaki prop.

"People are entitled to have their own opinion. But for me, I was coming into the team. I was asked if I wanted to be part of it, and having Irish heritage which I'm very proud of, it was certainly something I was never going to turn down.

"I was absolutely stoked to be a part of it and I didn't really read too much about what was going around in the media.

"I've been out and about a wee bit and anyone I've bumped into in public, and had a chat to, they've all been really positive and made me feel welcome. So I've felt really good about being a part of it."

His sister Kimberley, an estate agent in Rathmines, has lived here for the past five years, and it was always Bent's intention to eventually display his proud passport at Dublin Airport's arrivals hall.

That it happened much, much sooner than he expected is a surprising bonus.

"Well, there were a lot of nerves," he replies when asked about an extraordinary day in his career.

"It was obviously a very big moment. Building up to the game I tried to go through the process, but I was a lot more nervous than I would have been for other matches.

"Being out there in front of all those people and being part of the team and with the national anthem and everything, it was a really enjoyable moment and something I am never going to forget."

His impact was not a surprise to the Irish camp, who had been made fully aware of his power during a live scrummaging session five days earlier, during which Cian Healy, for one, felt the force of his impact upon his shoulders.

"From that point on, we've had no problems," asserted part-time defence coach Anthony Foley.

"He went on to the pitch and everyone had full confidence that he could do a job.

"He's now an international player, an international tighthead and he's obviously got the backing of everyone within the squad in terms of what he did.

"But we already had known going into the game what he was capable of doing, so it was not a surprise to us."

Being the victim of a prank from Donncha O'Callaghan is another unsuspecting rite of initiation for new caps in the Irish set-up but Bent, perhaps with some relief, has avoided that so far.

Softly spoken and stoically unemotional, Bent's whirlwind introduction to a new culture has understandably left him lost for words.

If he can express himself as volubly on the pitch as he managed to do last weekend, few supporters of the national team will quibble.

Irish Independent