THE PROSPECT OF being without Cian Healy for a large portion of the season was justifiably met with dismay by Leinster fans, while the suspension of Jack McGrath for the final two Champions Cup pool games could have added up to loosehead disaster.
Luckily for Matt O’Connor and his coaching team, Michael Bent has stepped into the void in a convincing manner, continuing his run of good form in the 50-8 victory against Castres on Saturday evening.
The 28-year-old Kiwi native has also played at tighthead twice this season in Europe, underlining just how valuable a squad member he is. Props like Bent aren’t too common in the professional game.
It’s a largely thankless task switching over and back across the front row at different stages of the season, but Bent is about as unfussy as they come.
“I’ve been playing both sides, chopping back and forth. I’m fairly happy with what I need to do at either side, so it doesn’t bother me too much.”
Bent’s arrival into Ireland – which famously involved being dropped directly into an international clash with South Africa – saw him predominantly viewed as a tighthead, where he started seven times for Leinster in the 2012/13 campaign.
Bent’s laidback nature means he’s a popular membe of the Leinster group. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
Matt O’Connor started him only once in the number three shirt last season, and it’s been at loosehead where Bent has increasingly impressed for the province in recent months.
“It does help to be just at one side as you can build on each performance and look at what might not have gone so well, improve on that,” says Bent. “Having a few games in a row at loosehead has been quite beneficial in that sense.”
Bent remains uncapped by Ireland since November 2012, when he famously played for the national team before Leinster. That month, he appeared off the bench against the Springboks, Fiji [uncapped] and Argentina, although he has played for Emerging Ireland in the last two summers.