VIDEO: Ireland happy with their 'new' Saffa
REACTION: Joe Schmidt was pleased with the impact made by debutant Jean Kleyn as Ireland began their Rugby World Cup warm-up games with a 29-10 victory over Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
Along with his provincial teammate Mike Haley, the Munster lock made his international bow in the first of four warm-up fixtures for the Ireland squad ahead of their opening Pool A clash with Scotland in Yokohama on Sunday, September 22.
The former Stormers forward Kleyn partnered Devin Toner in a new second row combination, and while he briefly made way for the towering Meath man due to a blood injury, the 25-year-old Test newcomer returned to see out the final minutes of the contest.
“I thought Jean acquitted himself really well,” said Schmidt at the post-match press conference. “Our scrum was very good in the first half. I think we probably had four scrums and got penalties off them, on the back of some really good power that we put through it.
“I thought around the pitch his work-rate was excellent. A couple of really good impact tackles that certainly stopped Italian momentum when he got involved. He’s a big man Jean, pretty close to 6ft 7in or 6ft 8in, but also about 120 kilograms in size. He’s your genuine stock standard tighthead lock, who gets through a lot of work in the tight. It was a good starting point for him, I think.”
There were some injury concerns arising out of the Series opener, with Joey Carbery, Rob Herring and Toner all picking up knocks. While the latter two emerged with only minor issues to report, Carbery damage his left ankle and had to make way for Jack Carty on the 50-minute mark.
A post-game X-ray revealed that it was not a fractured ankle, but a clearer picture of the Munster flyhalf’s injury will be revealed in the coming days. Schmidt was impressed with what he saw of Carbery on the pitch, particularly his well-taken first-half try.
“I was really happy with Joey’s performance. I thought defensively he got himself into the right places. That’s a challenge sometimes. I thought he ran the game really well. Obviously, the variety in his kicking game, his passing game and he is a dangerous runner with the ball. Obviously, he finished the try with a nice carry on a change-up, with a good pass from Chris [Farrell].
“He almost got through the line a couple of times. He presents himself as a threat really well, but he links well. I thought as a package, Joey’s game was really tidy. He’s still building his game. Unfortunately, he had a few injuries this year which didn’t allow him that real continuity he was looking for in playing at 10, where he wants to play.
“For example, we had a five-metre scrum and we went the short side and he just tried to probably overplay that kicking game where there wasn’t space to get the ball through so close to the line. He’ll be looking at those things over the next few days and looking to build on the back of what he delivered.”
Ireland’s next fixture is against England on August 24, followed by two matches against Wales on August 31 and September 7.
Schmidt’s men open their Rugby World Cup campaign against Scotland on September 22.