Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 0°C
©INPHO/Billy Stickland Keith Wood lines out against Wales in 2003.
# unpalatable
'How in the name of Jesus are we getting to this point' - Wood blasts Bent call-up
The former Irish captain also touted Jonny Sexton and Peter O’Mahony as future leaders.

FORMER IRELAND CAPTAIN Keith Wood was in combative form last night as he lamented the selection of New Zealander Michael Bent to the national set-up.

Bent, who qualifies for Ireland through his maternal grandmother, looks set to be given a spot on the replacements bench against South Africa on 10 November after Ulster’s Declan Fitzpatrick had an injury set-back due to concussion.

Speaking on Newstalk’s Off the Ball, Wood, capped 58 times for his country, expressed his frustration that the forward may appear as a tighthead replacement for Mike Ross before he has even represented his new club, Leinster.

Wood declared, “It can’t be, it can’t be, that easy to play for Ireland as to get onto a flight and fly into the country. It can’t be. I find it wrong.”

Kidney will take everything at his disposal ‘within the rules and laws of the game’ reasoned Wood and, he added, it was correct to do so.

“However,” he continued, “there is something unpalatable about a guy who hasn’t played a game in this country to go and play (for Ireland).

“We know he has played 10 or 11 games (for Taranaki) down in New Zealand and apparently he’s good, and all that, but this is playing for your country. It isn’t playing for Leinster.”

“I find it awkward,” said Wood. “It doesn’t sit well with me.”

Wood said it was the responsibility of someone within the IRFU, and should have been for the past decade, to ensure there is a high level of succession from established to emerging props.

He said, “Without John Hayes getting a 100 caps we would have had a dearth, we did have a dearth. Boy did he soldier it.”

Irish Times rugby correspondent Gerry Thornley, who was also a guest on the show, pointed to the foreign players in England’s World Cup squad last year and how they had ‘diluted their Englishness’.

Michael Bent practices his hurling skills at Ireland’s training camp. (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

Thornley argued that if Bent was the best man ‘to hold the Irish scrum up for the last 10 or 15 minutes and it is the difference between winning and losing a game’ then Ireland had made the right decision.

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Wood countered, “I watch rugby every week and Gerry watches it every day, we watch an awful lot of it, but did we ever hear of Michael Bent before last week? And is that good enough?”

“How in the name of Jesus are we getting to the point where a guy flies into the country and he will play for Ireland?” he questioned.

Tough schedule

Wood believes the 11-month season that the majority of the Irish squad have just endured is the main reason players are now ‘dropping like flies’.

“I maintain that the hits are the same as they were 10 years ago,” he said, “you just get 10 times as many. You don’t get away from them.” He added:

I really feel we are suffering from the preponderance of taking in overseas players… we now suffer because we don’t have a huge strength of depth in our own provinces. When you talk to everyone and they say ‘we have only three or four teams, that’s not the issue.

“We have effectively 11 front-row players with the provinces that are from overseas. Some of them have qualified for the country, which is great in some ways and not in other ways.”

Wood’s selection:

Jones; Bowe, Earls, McFadden, Zebo; Sexton (c*), Reddan; Heaslip, O’Mahony (c), Ferris; Ryan, O’Connell; Ross, Strauss, Healy.

*Wood selected two captains.

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