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'He would be of the ilk' - Donncha O'Callaghan tips retiring Bleyendaal for Munster backroom role

Munster confirmed the 29-year-old’s enforced retirement today.

Tyler Bleyendaal announced his retirement today.
Tyler Bleyendaal announced his retirement today.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

MUNSTER LEGEND DONNCHA O’Callaghan has backed Tyler Bleyendaal to dip his toes into coaching at the southern province after the out-half was forced to retire from professional rugby on medical grounds.

Munster announced the 29-year-old Bleyendaal’s decision today.

The Kiwi out-half had been struggling with a neck injury of late, and now closes his playing chapter after an injury-blighted five years at Munster.

And speaking on RTÉ 2fm’s Game On this evening, his former team-mate O’Callaghan praised the player, and the side for how they handled this difficult period and decision.

“He was a guy who came in, unfortunately he got injured and I think Munster and the IRFU can be proud of how they treated him,” the Corkman said.

“You can talk player welfare but [it's important] when you show it with guys.

“When he came over, the excitement about him — I was in the squad at the time — he had captained New Zealand U20s and everyone was chatting about him being the next Dan Carter, so there was great excitement.

“Anthony Foley kept going with, ‘Let’s look after this young man and let’s do the right thing for him’. That was reflected in Tyler being a brilliant player around the squad.

Because what can be tough sometimes with squad players is they can be negative, especially when they are injured. He was never that. He was selfless for the team.

“So I wish him, his wife and their child all the best and they have another one on the way, so hopefully he sticks around for a bit.”

Having watched his off-field impact and presence closely, and having heard predictions that he has what it takes to enter the coaching sphere, O’Callaghan feels Bleyendaal could be a welcome addition to Johann van Graan’s coaching staff in the future.

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The former Ireland lock believes he has what it takes after garnering some coaching experience when he was sidelined.

“He would be of the ilk. Certainly, he would know the culture for sure. He’s a calming influence and he’s able to deliver a message really well.

“You chat to an awful lot of the guys and [they say] he could have been coaching during that time he was off anyway.

But it’s where Johann van Graan sees that role. They’re well equipped now and he would have to bring something to it. But I know from a players’ point of view, he’s well respected so standing in the front of the room would be easy.

O’Callaghan — who said he’d love to see Ronan O’Gara on the Munster coaching ticket last night — also delved deeper into retirements in general, farewells for rugby players and how rare it is to see fitting send-offs, minus a few notable exceptions like Brian O’Driscoll’s.

“It is tough when it isn’t your call,” he said. “This is crazy thing to say but the fairytale end, only some players get it, and to be fair only some deserve it.

“I always look at [Brian O'Driscoll's] one where there were blimps with his face on it, and he deserved every bit of that. Brian O’Driscoll deserves that kind of a send-off. But some people head out the exit door without even getting a curtain call and I think we’re going to see a lot of that over the coronavirus.

“We’re going to run out of time to say thanks to so many of these players.”

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Emma Duffy

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