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Andy Farrell Wants To See What Jean Kleyn Can Bring To The Table

Jean Kleyn

All going according to plan, Jean Kleyn will make his Ireland debut on Saturday at the Aviva Stadium. 

The 25-year-old South African has completed his three-year residency period which sees him qualify to play for Ireland just in time for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

He’s been named to start on Saturday which could also see an international debut for Mike Haley who has been selected among the replacements.

Joe Schmidt’s side are well-stocked in the second-row positions but Kleyn brings something different and it is understood that the head coach is an admirer of his no-nonsense, physical, abrasive and old-school style of play.

Jean Kleyn

However, Kleyn is at a disadvantage compared to his peers as they would be well aware of the systems and culture within Ireland camp so it’s very much been a case of playing catch up over the last number of weeks.

By all accounts, he has made a big impression on his international colleagues and defence coach Andy Farrell, speaking to the media at Thursday’s team announcement, admits that everyone took to the Munster lock right away.

“He’s been great,” Farrell said.

“Obviously, when a new guy comes into the group, you’re trying to work out how he copes with the dynamic. His character is one that everyone took to him straight away. He’s been able to be himself and he’s acquitted himself really well.”

Jean Kleyn

Farrell is keen to see Kleyn’s “point of difference” – the aspects of his play which makes him stand above the rest of the second-rows in the squad. This is what the future Ireland head coach will be keen to see at Lansdowne Road.

“Well, hopefully, we’re able to see his point of difference. He has to fit into a strategy, a plan. And he has to be able to, within that plan, play his game and bring the best to the table.”

Ireland travel to Portugal next Wednesday for a warm-weather training camp but it remains unclear whether there will be more cuts to the squad after Ultan Dillane and Rory Scannell were released earlier this week.

Farrell was quizzed on this but said that any decisions in this area won’t be made until after this weekend’s clash with Italy.

“We’ll see. We’re not going to shoot ourselves in the foot. We’ve got seats on the plane to go to Portugal. We’ll assess the performance and the health of the squad, and we’ll probably make decisions on that Sunday or Monday.”

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Author: Sean McMahon

Sean is Deputy Editor and head rugby writer. You can contact him by email [email protected] or on Twitter