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Dublin: 3 °C Wednesday 26 February, 2020

Jackman backs Kleyn to start Ireland's World Cup opener ahead of Henderson

‘He’s going to get better as you have to remember it’s only his third Test.’

Henderson and Kleyn are battling to start alongside James Ryan.
Henderson and Kleyn are battling to start alongside James Ryan.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

BERNARD JACKMAN BELIEVES Jean Kleyn will only get better in a green jersey as he settles into Test rugby and has backed the Munster second row to start Ireland’s opening World Cup game against Scotland ahead of Iain Henderson.

The inclusion of Kleyn in Joe Schmidt’s 31-man squad ahead of Devin Toner has sparked major debate but after winning his third cap against Wales on Saturday, former Ireland hooker Jackman believes Kleyn is in a strong position to start alongside James Ryan.

Although Kleyn coughed up two early penalties at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, the big lock’s influence on the game grew as the afternoon progressed, with Schmidt describing the 26-year-old’s performance as ‘solid’.

The Ireland head coach will be hoping for much more from Kleyn in Japan but, speaking on The42 Rugby Weekly, Jackman says the South African-born second row ‘looks like he is nailed on to start’ in Ireland’s engine room for that Yokohama opener on 22 September.

“I think he had a poor start against Wales but it was out of his eagerness to make an impact,” Jackman said. “He got picked up for being offside in the defensive line, but it wasn’t because he was being lazy, he literally just wanted to make a huge hit.

“And then a little bit over-enthusiastic when he came in at the side of a maul on Elliot Dee. He probably felt the hooker had dis-engaged and re-joined the maul but you’ve got to check with the referee first there, so from that point of view, to give away two penalties in the Joe Schmidt model where you sometimes can have two penalties in a game, wouldn’t be good.

“But I thought after that he settled in and we said he wouldn’t have to go looking for contact against Wales because it was going to come to him and I think he handled it pretty well. Some good tackles, but probably not the biggest ball-carrier. We knew that anyway.

“Some good tackles and the physical scrum was good. I thought he was good against Italy in the first game and then obviously against England he was anonymous like everybody else, but certainly a solid game. It looks like he is nailed on to start. Kleyn and James Ryan will probably start against Scotland, with Henderson off the bench.”

Jackman added: “Henderson can drift in and out of games, to be honest, and he’s not the best scrummager in the world apparently. I just think Kleyn is there, and he’s going to get better as you have to remember it’s only his third Test. Whatever he has done up until now, you’ve got to imagine he’s going to get better and better when he gets comfortable with that environment.

“We know what Joe says he brings: tighthead scrummager, physicality and an enforcer type player. I suppose that’s what he brings more than Henderson but Henderson is still top-class and could give us great impact off the bench and can also cover six if you’re stuck.”

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Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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