pROMOTION-Chasing Leeds Carnegie have strengthened their attacking options ahead of the Championship run-in.
Leeds have signed fly-half Jonny Bentley on loan from Aviva Premiership side Gloucester until the end of the season.
The 27-year-old is originally from Wellington in New Zealand and played four seasons in the Championship with Cornish Pirates before his move to Kingsholm at the start of the 2013-14 season.
Gloucester have the opportunity to recall Bentley, if required, however he will get the chance to gain valuable game time as part of Leeds Carnegie’s push for the play-offs.
Leeds currently sit second on 57 points with six games to play.
They trail leaders Bristol by four points.
Sunday’s game with London Scottish could be their most crucial of the run-in as the exiles are fifth, nine points adrift of Leeds.
Only four teams book their place in the end-of-season play-offs meaning a victory on Sunday would see James Lowes’s side take a significant step towards sealing their play-off place.
Bentley’s arrival will creat competition at No 10 with Glyn Hughes and Alex Lozowski the two men who have battled for that position all season.
Director of rugby Chris Gibson said: “We are delighted to have secured the services of Jonny Bentley.
“He is someone we have monitored for a long time but unfortunately for him, he had suffered injuries earlier in his career.
“He is now fully fit and keen to show what he can do and we are pleased to bring in a player of his quality and desire into our existing group.
“He knows a good number of our squad from his time at the Pirates and will have benefitted from his time with Gloucester and playing for a Premiership side.”
Bentley added: “It has been great to meet the boys this week and I am looking forward to settling in and helping the team where I can.
“Leeds are going well this year and are right up there pushing for promotion.
“I was impressed with the ambition the club has and, if I can help the club achieve their goals whilst I am here on loan, then it will be a great result for everyone.”
Bentley joins namesake John Bentley – the former British Lion and Carnegie’s community manager.
England No 8 Billy Vunipola, meanwhile, has been ruled out of the remainder of the RBS Six Nations with an ankle injury.
Vunipola limped off in the second half of last Saturday’s 13-10 victory over Ireland and will now miss the final two games against Wales and Italy.
“It’s a blow as Billy has had a good Six Nations but he is young and will be back,” said head coach Stuart Lancaster, the former Leeds player and rugby director.
Vunipola sprained his right ankle at Twickenham and a scan on Monday afternoon revealed the extent of the ligament damage.
It is not known how much more of the season the Saracens back row will miss.
Ben Morgan replaced Vunipola against Ireland and will be promoted to the starting line-up for the visit of Wales on Sunday week.
Either Tom Johnson or Matt Kvesic will take Morgan’s place on the bench.
“The encouraging thing is that we have Ben Morgan and other back rows such as Matt Kvesic and Tom Johnson who are all competing hard for places,” said Lancaster.