Michael Bent's 10-minute cameo in his test debut for Ireland should have gone some way to silencing the critics in his adopted country.
The 26-year-old Taranaki player of the year came on at Aviva Stadium in the 70th minute on Sunday with the Ireland scrum in trouble against South Africa.
Not only did he help steady the set piece, he won a penalty, took the ball up well over the advantage line and covered the inside defensive channel well in Ireland's disappointing 16-12 loss.
Bent's selection drew wide-spread criticism after he was virtually grabbed out of the airport terminal in Dublin after landing from New Zealand and whisked away to join the Ireland squad.
Former Ireland captain Keith Wood was asked to comment in the The Guardian before the weekend's test and let his feelings be known.
"It can't be that easy to play for Ireland as to get on a flight and fly into the country," he said.
"It can't be. And I find that wrong. There is something unpalatable about a guy who hasn't played a game in this country to go and play [for Ireland]."
Following the test Bent, who qualified to play for Ireland through his grandmother and has signed a two-year deal with Heineken Cup holders Leinster, received praise from national coach Declan Kidney in The Irish Examiner.
"In fairness to Michael, he's come in from nowhere, he's held up his front and managed on two scrums to get a penalty off one of them," he said. "Look, Michael, it's been difficult for him. I think there's been a lot of publicity around Michael Bent's name coming into it but we needed to get somebody in there and for the last 10 minutes he's come in and done a job and fair play to him for that."
There was also praise for Bent in The Guardian from Taranaki coach Colin Cooper, who was asked to comment on his former charge's suitability for test rugby.
"We're surprised I guess that he's gone straight into the Ireland squad but I've been coaching professional rugby for 16 years now and he's the hardest-working player I've come across. He's got a great attitude. He's still got a lot to work on at tighthead - he needs to keep his right shoulder down and not let the loosehead get under him - but he's a really diligent worker. And he's a neat guy."
Attempts to contact Bent have so far proved unsuccessful as he has returned to Carton House with the Ireland squad to prepare for this weekend's test against Fiji.
It was believed Ireland's management had deliberately kept him away from the press in the leadup to the Springboks match.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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