Gloucester Rugby: Jonny Bentley set for Munster challenge
SHOCKED Jonny Bentley is ready to kick-start his Cherry and Whites career in the most intimidating competitive Gloucester debut possible at Munster tonight.
The Kiwi fly-half admitted he was surprised to see his name plastered on Gloucester's selection board last week – on two counts.
First he was taken aback to be starting, and second to find out it was not for the immediate Perpignan clash, but the trip to Munster a week later.
Nigel Davies' bold selection strategy to name two different sides for the opening Heineken Cup fortnight paid immediate dividend with 27-22 pool six victory over Perpignan last weekend. But now comes an acid test and then some tonight (6pm), at a Thomond Park ground boasting Munster support as ferocious as it is vociferous.
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Former Cornish Pirates playmaker Bentley has waited patiently for his chance since arriving in the summer.
The 27-year-old might not have expected to earn his opportunity against one of the Heineken Cup's most decorated teams – but is not about to waste it. He explained: "It doesn't really get much bigger than Munster away at Thomond Park in the Heineken Cup, so it's very exciting.
"It was a bit of a surprise to be fair: I just had a little glance and saw my name in the squad for this week, so it was a shock.
"But it gave me plenty of time to get my head around it, which is good.
"I've been trying to work away and do my thing in training and then in A League games.
"But chances like this are what it's all about, so I can't wait.
"Nigel has spoken from the word go about rotation and having a strong squad that he wants to use, so I knew I would get a chance at some point.
"And now it's up to me to put my best foot forward on the weekend.
"If I could make an impression over in Ireland then that would stand me in great stead in my Gloucester career.
"It's such a long way from where I was 12 months ago, when I was struggling with injury and worrying whether I'd lace my boots up again.
"I had real injury problems at the Pirates, and really had to battle to get back.
"But now things are coming along nicely, I've had a run of games in the A League with Gloucester United and I feel I'm in good form.
"It's a hugely exciting opportunity, I've just got to go out there and enjoy it and make sure I'm not overawed, and relish the occasion.
"It always helps when you know the environment, so going across there for our pre-season match was great. Munster in pre-season and Munster in the Heineken Cup – there will definitely be a bit of a difference!
"But at least we know what it's like going over to Limerick, the logistics and the environment.
"I'm sure it will be far noisier than pre-season, there will be that bit more red in the stands.
"We are a strong squad, we've got depth across the board, and you need that.
"You can't have the same 15 playing week on week, rugby's just too brutal and attritional for that.
"Players need to rest every now and then to freshen up.
"That allows others to come in and show their hand, and that's what I'm looking to do this weekend.
"I've played a bit of rugby this season, and no matter how pressured or intense, it's just another game of rugby and all the things that get you there in the first place, they are what you need to do in this to play well too.
"That's stood me in good stead so far, so hopefully it works again this weekend."
Bentley said mixing up selection should not affect continuity.
He continued: "There are a few changes this week but that doesn't mean we can't take advantage of the momentum we built last week.
"As a backline there aren't too many changes in there..
"It makes it easier to step in with guys who have played a bit of rugby together and know each other well.
"We do genuinely see our- selves as a squad here not a 23, and everyone's a big part of that.
"Billy Twelvetrees and Ryan Mills are from the same mould, and both of them are good communicators, so it definitely makes life easier for me from that perspective.
"It's always easier as a 10 when you've got that much noise coming from outside you."