Former Hurricanes and Taranaki prop Michael Bent will pull on the emerald green jersey of Ireland on Sunday.
The 26-year-old tighthead prop has been confirmed in the Irish team to play South Africa at Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Bent, who qualifies for Ireland through his maternal grandmother, should get his chance off the bench with teams now able to have an expanded eight-man bench to accommodate a second specialist prop.
Taranaki's player of the year in 2012, who has yet to play a game for his new club Leinster, was rushed into the Irish squad soon after he arrived two weeks ago to prepare for internationals against South Africa, Fiji (November 17) and Argentina (November 24).
The irish side will be captained for the first time by No 8 Jamie Heaslip.
South African Richardt Strauss will earn his first cap for Ireland at hooker against his countrymen, packing down alongside his Leinster teammates Cian Healy and Mike Ross.
Another playing his first match for Ireland is fullback Simon Zebo, while winger Tommy Bowe will play his 50th test.
The Irish team is: Simon Zebo, Tommy Bowe, Keith Earls, Gordon D'Arcy, Andrew Trimble, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Jamie Heaslip (captain), Chris Henry, Peter O'Mahony, Mike McCarthy, Donnacha Ryan, Mike Ross, Richardt Strauss, Cian Healy. Reserves, Sean Cronin, David Kilcoyne, Michael Bent, Donnacha O'Callaghan, Iain Henderson, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O'Gara, Fergus McFadden.
Taranaki prop Michael Bent is likely to make his debut for Ireland against South Africa this weekend.
The 26-year-old tighthead prop, who was this year's Taranaki player of the year, was expected to be named on the bench overnight.
Bent has been rushed into the Irish squad despite being in the country for only two weeks and is almost certain to be used in Sunday's test with teams now able to have an expanded eight-man bench, to accommodate a second specialist prop.
Bent's selection in the squad to prepare for internationals against South Africa, Fiji (November 17) and Argentina (November 24) hasn't gone down well in some quarters, with the Irish media and public discussing the morality of the Kiwi hopping off a plane and training with Ireland before playing a club game or even meeting his Leinster clubmates.
Many are saying it undermines the value of an Irish cap if he can play without ever having played for his province.
Others say the sight of the Irish scrum being dismantled by England at Twickenham in March showed Irish coach Declan Kidney had to cast his selection net wide.
With Ireland facing a dearth of front row options and Bent qualifying to play through his maternal grandmother, Kidney had no hesitation in including the former Hurricanes prop in his squad.
"It's our job to assemble the best Irish-qualified group together," it was reported in the Irish News. "In fairness to Leinster, they did a lot of groundwork in finding him. With the game time the rest of the tighthead props have, he's probably the most qualified in terms of being match fit."
It's a tough position for Bent but he's dealt with selection battles before in the Hurricanes when largely ignored by coach Mark Hammett.
Being thrown in at the deep end, won't worry Bent. He's packed down against the best of the South Africans in Super Rugby and the step up won't be as bad as some Irish fans are predicting.
Bent was a key man in the Taranaki scrum that was seldom bettered this season in the NPC.
His inclusion in the Irish squad has the backing of Ireland and Leinster tighthead prop Mike Ross.
"I think he has every right to be here and if he plays well, nobody will be saying a word about him," Ross was quoted as saying. "There are other players who have played for Ireland without playing for an irish province."
Ross said Bent was proving his worth in Kidney's squad.
"If he is doing well against the top two or three looseheads in Ireland, you have to think he will be well able for the international stage," he said.
"The fact is, he is probably one of the guys out there who is match fit at the moment and has had a good season at Taranaki."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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