Jean Kleyn: Did Ireland miss a trick with Munster monster?
SPOTLIGHT: Ireland coach Andy Farrell may come to rue the decision not to follow the ‘guidelines’ of his predecessor, Joe Schmidt, and call up Jean Kleyn for the 2023 World Cup.
By all accounts, it was a ‘close call’ when Farrell opted to name some of the ‘younger’ locals for the trip to France.
He put his faith in Ulster lock Iain Henderson, Leinster second rower James Ryan, Munster utility Tadhg Beirne, Leinster’s Ryan Baird (lock cum back row forward) and Leinster lock Joe Mccarthy.
The other utility is Kleyn’s Munster teammate Peter O’Mahony – who mostly plays in the back row, but can help out at lock.
When Ireland faces off against South Africa at Stade de France, just north of Paris in the commune of Saint-Denis, Kleyn will be one of four locks in the matchday 23 – Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, RG Snyman (another Munsterman) and Kleyn.
Throw in Bok utility Pieter-Steph du Toit and you have five players who can produce world-class performances in the second row.
Farrell, who first joined the Ireland coaching team in 2016 as an assistant, was appointed head coach after the 2019 World Cup, succeeding Schmidt.
He has done many things right – guiding Ireland to Triple Crown success, a first-ever series win over the All Blacks in New Zealand and, most recently, the Six Nations Grand Slam title this past March.
But with Kleyn now a member of the celebrated ‘Bomb Squad’ (or should that now read nuke squad?), Ireland has ‘gifted’ the Springboks another powerful weapon.
Kleyn, 30, told @rugby365com that he is “looking forward to the opportunity”.
(WATCH as dual international Jean Kleyn speaks about the unique opportunity of featuring in back-to-back World Cups for different countries…)
“You want to play against the best teams in the world and Ireland is one of the best teams in the World,” her said.
“I have played with a lot of them at Munster,” he said, adding: “I have played against all of them throughout the years.
“I know them well.”
Kleyn said he will ‘throw his weight around’ as much as he can on Saturday.
He added that the two World Cups – 2019 with Ireland and 2023 with South Africa – are worlds apart.
“The two are quite detached to me,” Kleyn said.
“I was a different person back then.”
While he no longer pays much attention to what pundits say about him, he could prove a point to Farrell – despite now ‘loving life’ with the national team of the country of his birth.
“There was massive pride for me to represent Ireland back then and now I have a massive opportunity to be able to represent my country of birth,” the Munster monster added.
The World Rugby call to change the eligibility laws – which South Africa first opposed, but then embraced and lured Kleyn back to the Republic – has caused a stir.
“It’s a lot of outside noise to me,” Kleyn said of the criticism, adding: “I try to focus on what happens inside the team and my family.
“I try to focus on the internal conversations I’m having.
“I know the reasons why I do things and I know those reasons will change,” he added.
Kleyn moved to the Irish province, Munster, in 2016 to work under current South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus and coach Jacques Nienaber.
With Saturday’s Test a Pool B decider, Kleyn understands the significance of the occasion.
“They’re an incredibly clinical team, that’s the thing with the Irish, they tend to nail the details,” Kleyn said.
“Guys like Johnny [Sexton] and Peter [O’Mahony] are quite serious about driving the detail and not making small mistakes.
“They drive precision and execution.
“We’ll have to pitch up on the day,” he concluded.