Thursday 23 January 2020

Bent remains on track for unlikely Ireland debut

Andrew Baldock

PROP Michael Bent remains on course for a rapid Test debut during Ireland's autumn international series.

The 26-year-old New Zealander, who qualifies for Ireland through his maternal grandmother, will be training with the Irish squad today.

He was due to spend yesterday with his new Leinster provincial team-mates, and he could play in next Sunday's league game against the Ospreys.

"He will come back to Carton House (Ireland's training base) Thursday and Friday, and then a decision will be taken on whether he will have an involvement in Leinster's game on Sunday," Ireland team manager Michael Kearney said.

"For us, he could play in one or two or all three games in November. It depends on what happens in the next week or two. Declan (Fitzpatrick) has just returned from injury, and we are keeping our options open."

Ireland face South Africa on November 10, then tackle Fiji before winding up their series against Argentina.

Bent recently played for Taranaki in New Zealand's ITM Cup. He also made five Super 15 appearances for the Hurricanes earlier this year.

Ireland coach Declan Kidney added: "It's our job to assemble the best Irish-qualified group together. In fairness to Leinster, they did a lot of groundwork in finding him.

"With the game-time the rest of the tighthead props have around the place, he's probably one of the most qualified in terms of being match-fit."

Ireland star Brian O'Driscoll, meanwhile, was set to undergo surgery yesterday on the ankle ligament trouble that has sidelined him for his country's autumn Tests.

O'Driscoll, full-back Rob Kearney and hooker Rory Best will all miss the November games.

And with lock Paul O'Connell's training currently restricted, it could be that Kidney will require a new skipper for the Dublin appointment with South Africa in nine days' time.

"We will assess all that now," Kidney said.

"Paul (O'Connell) has his own niggles with his back. He was hoping to get a bit of pitch-time this weekend.

"Captain can be an onerous position. We will let him recover first, we will look after the person first and then see what is right for the team."

Number eight Jamie Heaslip could emerge as the captaincy favourite if O'Connell is sidelined.

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