Gibbes gives Bent stamp of approval as Hagan exits

With news of Jamie Hagan’s departure to London Irish, Leinster have reaffirmed their confidence in hooker Michael Bent on foot of a glowing report from forwards coach Jonno Gibbes.

Bent’s arrival from New Zealand last November, and his swift elevation to the ranks of those capped for Ireland, was accompanied by considerable debate and no little disgruntlement at the time.

Brought to the northern hemisphere to plug a long-established hole as cover for Mike Ross at the troublesome tight head spot, his subsequent scrummaging difficulties raised serious questions as to his abilities.

He has now played 12 times for Leinster — his longest stint being a 64-minute stint against Scarlets last month — and Gibbes spoke of the soon-to-be 27-year old being a long-term asset for both club and adopted country in the years ahead.

“It was an unfortunate situation in that I didn’t get to work with him first,” said Gibbes of his Kiwi compatriot. “He went to the Ireland set-up and experienced that and I thought he acquitted himself well there.

“This last period he’s made some really good progress for us and I feel he’s keen to learn and to keep progressing and he works really hard.”

Confirmation of Hagan’s imminent switch to the Exiles operation across the water added even greater weight to those words and, for the former Connacht player, brought what must have been a frustrating period close to an end.

The 25-year old has played 33 times since returning to Leinster after a two-year stint out west but the vast majority off the bench and he now moves on to a club which clearly has considerable designs for him.

“Jamie Hagan is a future Irish Test player,” said London Irish Director of Rugby, Brian Smith.

“He’s cut his teeth in the Rabo Direct PRO12 and is more than ready to launch his Aviva Premiership career.

Hagan’s departure brings to five the number of players in the current Leinster squad who will not be returning for pre-season training next August. Isa Nacewa is retiring, Andrew Conway is off to Munster, Fionn Carr to Connacht and, of course, Jonathan Sexton has signed for Racing Metro.

Add to that the uncertainty over Brian O’Driscoll, Leo Cullen and Luke Fitzgerald — all of whom are yet to indicate whether they will sign new deals — and the fact that Leinster have no Heineken to savour next month and the times are clearly changing.

That said, they remain very much on course in the PRO12 where they sit atop the table ahead of this Friday’s visit of Ulster to the RDS and in the Amlin Challenge Cup in which they make their bow, against London Wasps at Adams Park in High Wycombe, in April.

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