Tuesday 21 May 2019

New three-year deal paves way for Kleyn to play for Ireland

Green dream: Jean Kleyn would jump at the chance to play for Ireland if he gets it. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Green dream: Jean Kleyn would jump at the chance to play for Ireland if he gets it. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

South African powerhouse Jean Kleyn has committed his future to Munster in a move that paves the way for him to play for Ireland.

The second-row (25), who signed a three-year deal, has been a hugely successful signing since arriving in 2016 and could even make Joe Schmidt's squad for next year's World Cup.

Kleyn's three-year window to qualify through residency finishes on the eve of the tournament in Japan and his provincial form puts him firmly in contention for a squad berth.

His scrummaging ability, ball-carrying and work-rate all mark him out as a potentially Test quality lock who has earned his place as one of the first names on the team-sheet at Thomond Park.

"I came over two years ago with the intent of making my mark on Munster and now I've got a three-year opportunity, I'm delighted," he told the province's YouTube channel yesterday.

"I'm glad to get it out of the way so early, show my commitment to Munster. I think I've been treated exceptionally well since I first came over, from the players to the staff, the coaches and the fans... I'm so happy.

"Every rugby player has aspirations to play at the highest level and the way Ireland are playing now, they are at the highest level.

"If I could possibly make the team on merit, I'd love to play. It's an opportunity I'd relish.

"My commitment lies at Munster at the minute and does until, if the day comes, I get called up."

Kleyn was recruited as a 'project player' and would follow in the footsteps of seven other overseas signings who represented Ireland having qualified through residency, the most successful of whom are Bundee Aki, Jared Payne and CJ Stander.

World Rugby extended the residency period from three to five years from the beginning of 2018, but players who arrived before then were exempt from the new time-frame.

Along with Kleyn, Leinster scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park also qualifies just in time for next year's World Cup and could come into contention.

Kleyn and Munster's major focus this week is trying to put last Friday's dreadful defeat at the hands of Cardiff Blues to bed.

They host Ulster at Thomond Park on Saturday in the first interprovincial derby of the campaign.

The defeat in the Welsh capital was Munster's second away loss of the season to date, but centre Rory Scannell insists the squad's belief has not been negatively affected.

"I don't think the confidence is down," he said. "We know that we are capable of winning performances and we're not really worried about that (but) it's disappointing to lose two of our first four games.

"We're pretty confident we can go out this week and put in a good performance so we're not getting too down on ourselves this early in the season.

"We have quite a big challenge ahead of us on Saturday and I'm really looking forward to it."

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