Michael Bent's achievement of winning his one-hundredth Leinster cap this weekend is all the more impressive when you consider the abuse aimed at the prop from several quarters when he first arrived on these shores.
Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek was the one who suggested that his old Taranaki mate could help both country and club in a time when props, especially those of a tighthead persuasion, were scarce on the ground. The friendly Kiwi with a Dublin granny stepped onto the tarmac at Dublin airport in October 2012 and was immediately whisked off to the Irish camp at Carton House.
Days later he made his international debut against South Africa under head coach Declan Kidney, as a replacement for Mike Ross. In the subsequent years the criticism kept coming from ex-players and the media but Bent got his head down and carved out a really good career for himself in his granny's hometown.
“It must be difficult for any player for any foreign player to come over and establish themselves in Ireland to play rugby and it was tough for him initially," said Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty this week. "One of the qualities that Michael has, he’s a quiet character, but he goes to work. He has worked on his game, he’s worked on his scrum, and he’s improved hugely. He’s very important for us.
"We’ve seen him over the years play both sides of the scrum, so he’s shown himself to be versatile. He’s improved his game, and he’s adapted to different coaches that have come in. Everytime he's asked, we play a quick brand of rugby at the moment, so Stuart [Lancaster - senior coach], has him under pressure. He's doing whatever he can, he's working his way through it. It's a credit to him to be able to get through those hard things and play a hundred times for Leinster.
"Credit to Michael. I’m delighted for him and his family that he’s reached a hundred caps. It's no mean feat and he deserves it."
It will be the prop's seventh appearance in blue this season when he takes to the field on Myreside this Friday night (k/o 19:35) to face Edinburgh in the Guinness PRO 14.
"To be honest probably not," Bent replies when asked if he ever thought he would play a century of matches with the Blues. "I came over here in 2012, signed a two-year contract at that stage. The way rugby is, you never really know where you're going to end up. Here I am, coming up to a hundred games. I didn't necessarily think I was going to get here but I'm pretty proud of the achievement.
"A hundred games for any team in the professional [era] is pretty impressive I think so yeah I'm pretty proud of that achievement."