Irish jersey cheapened?
Sun, 04 Nov 2012 08:48
It can't be that easy to play for Ireland
The arrival of New Zealander Michael Bent in Ireland this week caused a big stir in the Emerald Isle.
Having come through the Taranaki age-group ranks and played 30-odd games for their senior team in New Zealand's premier provincial competition as well as a handful of Super Rugby games for the Hurricanes, Bent is on course for a rapid Test debut during Ireland's year-end Tests.
Ireland face South Africa on November 10, then tackle Fiji before winding up their series against Argentina.
The 26-year-old New Zealander, who qualifies for Ireland through his maternal grandmother, has been training with the Irish squad this past week.
Having materialised out of the blue, Bent's instant elevation to the national squad has inevitably provoked some objections in Ireland.
According to the Irish Independent newspaper the bare naked opportunism of it all that has troubled a lot of people.
Retired Ireland hooker Keith Wood did not hold back in his criticism of what the legendary No.2 regards as a 'cheapening of the Irish jersey'.
On Newstalk's Off The Ball show the former Irish captain expressed his distaste.
"It can't be, it can't be that easy to play for Ireland," Wood said.
"How on earth are we getting to the point where a guy flies into the country and plays for Ireland? I find it wrong," he said of Bent's arrival just a week ago.
Leinster had been scouting internationally for players who could be Irish-qualified through ancestry.
Their search led them to Bent.
"He was keen to come over," explained Michael Kearney, manager of the national squad, last Monday.
The Independent said it reflects poorly on the Irish Rugby Football Union for so patently failing to develop sufficient indigenous talent for front row positions.
"And, more immediately, it smacks of desperation on the part of [Ireland coach] Declan Kidney," the newspaper said.
"Given the coach's sensibilities, there is surely a part of him that is uneasy about the situation too. Playing for Ireland is still supposed to be a hard-earned privilege.
"There hasn't been much dignity about the process. Not alone has Bent not put in the hard yards at provincial level for a couple of years, he hasn't put in any hard yards here [in Ireland] at all.
"For the Irish management team involved in this decision, there isn't the vestige of a fig leaf to preserve their modesty, not even a wilted bunch of shamrock to spare their blushes.
"Patriotism in sport is a thin veneer. It has a short shelf-life when the whistle blows. What matters is who you are, not where you're from. A player with guts and honesty and heart will give generously of himself, no matter the jersey. A player without these qualities won't.
"It still doesn't make the current case right. But if Michael Bent performs honourably in the national jersey, his Irishness or lack thereof shouldn't come into the equation. Doing one's job well is a lot more patriotic than merely knowing the words to Amhrán na bhFiann."
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