Taranaki prop Michael Bent heads for Leinster
In-form prop Michael Bent could be in action for Ireland club Leinster as early as next week.
Taranaki's exit at the hands of Canterbury in the national provincial championship semifinal at the weekend has enabled Bent to move his departure date forward a week.
The 26-year-old will fly out on Saturday to join the Heineken Cup holders and could be in action as early as the following weekend when Leinster take on Ospreys in Pro12 competition.
Bent said he had spoken to Leinster scrum coach, former Taranaki and All Blacks prop Greg Feek, since Taranaki's extra-time loss to Canterbury.
"I've been speaking to Feeky around getting over there earlier and getting some game time," he said yesterday.
Bent holds an Irish passport because his grandmother was born in Ireland and it is believed the national squad is keen to look at him when he arrives.
Some reports have even mentioned him having an outside chance of being called into the Ireland squad as it prepares for its autumn internationals against South Africa, Fiji and Argentina.
"They are not saying that is going to happen, I've just to get over there and play a bit of footy for Leinster first before they can even look at me," he said.
"It does sound pretty positive, but obviously I've got to prove myself first before they can look at me seriously.
"There is interest in getting me playing as soon as possible, so I've just got to get over there, train as hard as I can and see what eventuates from that."
Bent was the only Taranaki forward to appear in every one of Taranaki's 13 first-class matches this season, with midfielder Jayden Hayward and utility back Kurt Baker the only other players to manage the feat.
His workrate, excellent scrum work and ball-carrying must put him close to being named Taranaki player of the year, although fellow prop Chris King would also be close to the title.
Unwanted by Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett for most of the Super Rugby season, Bent showed his potential by producing the best form of his career.
He repeatedly came in for praise from Tenderlink Taranaki coach Colin Cooper who paid tribute to the front rower after Saturday's match in Christchurch.
"He is an outstanding player and I think he had a great year for us," he said.
"He has improved his game, both defensively and on attack, because his scrummaging was always good.
"We asked him to improve his ball-carrying and I think he did that, so it's a real shame to lose him because he is still young. Hopefully he might come back."
Taranaki Daily News