Now that the dust has settled on the inclusion of Jean Kleyn in Ireland’s 31-man World Cup squad, it would have come as a relief to the management and the player himself that he produced his most accomplished performance in a green shirt on Saturday.
Kleyn was busy throughout his 53-minute performance in the 19-10 victory over Wales and his much-lauded physicality was evident when he held up a Welsh player in the Irish 22 to win a scrum turnover as Wales were looking increasingly dangerous.
Schmidt admitted that Kleyn’s performance was “solid if not spectacular” but he was happy with his overall contribution.
“Making tackles, hitting good, solid tackles,” Schmidt said of Kleyn’s performance.
“He’s a good man for us in the engine room. And I think James Ryan is James Ryan really, he just keeps setting a bar for himself and then looking to jump a little bit higher. I thought Iain Henderson added some value and we’ve got Tadhg Beirne too, so it’s going to be a good contest for those spots. And they are four quite different profiles of second-row.
“So it allows us a little bit of flexibility in how we change up the game, during a game or from game to game.”
“Jean Kleyn hasn’t had that many opportunities but we’re just trying to build that profile, just to give him more, you never want to be comfortable, but just to get him more confident that he can offer himself as a ball carrier and he can be getting off the line, and adding value defensively.
“And I think he does. Right from the first game against Italy, if you look back in the first 15 minutes, he made a couple of really big tackles. He hits big men back.
“So when your big men are doing that it gives you an advantage line and a bit of confidence in the guys who are being dragged forward with them.”
Kleyn formed an impressive partnership with James Ryan on Saturday as the Leinster man called the lineouts and it will be interesting to see how much food for thought Schmidt gives to that combination when he is selecting his starting XV for Ireland’s Pool A opener against Scotland in two weeks.