Sunday 15 September 2019

Fatherly duties give dedicated Bent fresh perspective

Prop calls on team-mates to look after the ball better if they are to overcome dangeous Glasgow outfit, writes Marcus Ó Buachalla

From far left: Michael Bent in action against Benetton last week. Photo: Sportsfile
From far left: Michael Bent in action against Benetton last week. Photo: Sportsfile

Marcus Ó Buachalla

As Michael Bent rests his 118kg frame on the couch after another day at Leinster HQ, he could be forgiven for thinking back to easier times when he'd be able to recover in peace and quiet.

But before long the tranquillity is gone as daughter Emme comes bundling in and with that Michael Bent the rugby player becomes Dad.

"It's a different scenario all right," he laughs as he reflects on the then and now.

"I'd come in and be parked up on the couch, recovery was the focus, getting right for training the next day was the plan. Now you go in the door and you've got this little girl excited to see you and it's brilliant.

"Getting the body right takes second place when she's running at you. But it's lovely.

"She's still too young to get it but she's been to one or two games with my wife Celyse so maybe in time she'll have an appreciation, but for now we'll just enjoy the excitement and the fun that she brings.

"I've brought her down to the pitch as well a few times but more just to stretch the legs and go for a run. I'm not sure she even knows it's a pitch just yet!"

As with any team, as the players get older, they start to have families and the Leinster Rugby creche is getting busier on match days, so little Emme is certainly not alone.

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Nor is Bent himself with plenty of other recently new fathers in Leinster adjusting bit by bit. But it does make the time to recover between training and matches all the more sacred and the emphasis shifts.

"You definitely have less time but I think too it just comes with age. The older you get the body creaks just that little bit more, the bones ache and it definitely takes that extra bit of effort.

"For me I have had to focus on different exercises and stretches to make sure I'm in the right shape to train and to make sure that I can arrive into UCD in the best place possible.

"So it's extra work on top of what we already do, but I find it's definitely making a difference."

He laughs as he remembers the routine employed by previous team-mates like Isa Nacewa and Richardt Strauss.

Their schedule had them missing training on Mondays or Tuesdays.

Funny

"They had it down to a tee all right! It's funny though because in the early days with niggles, I'd just put the boots on and get on with it and give them stick.

"But now I find myself taking it easy from time to time to get right for a game. I'm learning!"

It gives an insight into the player-centric approach that is now needed to keep a squad of 55-plus players ticking along.

"No one thing or session is right for two players.

"You have to be able to alter and change a session to cater for the needs of the players and their circumstances.

"Everything we do is mapped, all our scores and metres run, so there is no slacking but there is definitely room for that player-specific approach to make sure that everyone gets to match day in as good a place as possible."

Over his own career and his 120 caps for Leinster he has been lucky with injuries but as he reflects on the road ahead of Dan Leavy, he knows that the staff and the support will be there.

"I can't relate to what Dan is going through as I've been relatively lucky. I've had niggles and bangs like anyone else but otherwise maybe eight weeks for a neck and another eight weeks for a knee injury is probably the worst I have had, touch wood.

"You would feel for Dan massively. He was just back from that calf injury too and getting himself to a really good place.

"In rugby terms it is a tragedy to see an injury like that happen. Thankfully he is young and he has already shown himself to be very diligent in his rehab so he'll be back.

"I have also seen the team here in Leinster and the work that the medics and the physios do and they are brilliant. They will devise a plan that is right for him and for the rest of us then we just have to make sure that we support him as best that we can."

From one No 7 to another as Seán O'Brien gets set to play his last regular-season game at the RDS for Leinster before his move to London Irish.

"Seánie is a great player. He's given a lot to Leinster and Irish rugby over the years and will be a loss for the team to see him go.

"He's valued on and off the field, he's a laugh in the changing room and a leader on the field. I'm sure all of us will do everything we can to see him off with a win. He deserves nothing less!"

He may deserve it but there are plenty of teams, like Glasgow this weekend, looking to stop the fairytale ending for O'Brien and the likes of Jack McGrath and Nick McCarthy who are also moving at the end of the season.

"I think over the last few weeks that perfect game has eluded us. We just haven't held on to the ball as well as we would have liked and our discipline has let us down.

"We have a massive block of games coming up and I suppose it's up to us to make sure that the curve is going up but we're coming up against teams that also have plenty to play for.

"Glasgow have a sole focus on the PRO14 now and finishing top and they know that a good result this weekend could be enough for them.

Bigger

"Them bringing that edge will be good for us too with the games getting bigger and bigger."

The possession and territory stats for Benetton last weekend and the tackle numbers for some of the Leinster back-row probably back up his points.

"I think so. It's a great reflection on the likes of Caelan (Doris) and Max (Deegan) and Jack Dunne that they put in those tackles and that our defence was so strong.

"But if we held on to the ball maybe we don't have to rely on our 'D' as much? I think if we are as careless with the ball this weekend, we will be punished."

And with that Glasgow is parked and it's back to daddy day-care duties. The new way of life. And he wouldn't have it any other way.

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