Kleyn and the Springboks were 76-0 winners against Romania on Sunday. SteveHaagSports/Steve Haag/INPHO
Jean Kleyn

'There was massive pride to represent Ireland - now I've a massive opportunity to represent my country of birth'

Munster’s Jean Kleyn is among the South Africa replacements for Saturday’s Pool B showdown with Ireland.

SATURDAY’S RUGBY WORLD CUP showdown between Ireland and South Africa will be a unique one for Munster’s Jean Kleyn.

Four years ago during the last World Cup in Japan, Kleyn won the last of his five caps for Ireland. 

This time around the Springboks second row has been named on the bench for the potential Pool B decider, leaving him in line to make his sixth Test appearance for his country of birth.

This World Cup is the first edition of the competition since laws changed to allow a player to feature for a second country they qualify to represent, following a stand-down period from international rugby.

“The two are quite detached to me. I was a different person back then,” Kleyn told reporters after South Africa’s 76-0 win over Romania on Sunday.

“I was much younger, I paid a lot more attention to what people said compared to now, especially in the media.

“There was massive pride for me to represent Ireland back then and now I have a massive opportunity to be able to represent my country of birth,” he added.

The likes of ex-All Blacks Lima Sopoaga and Charles Piutau and former Australia fly-half Christian Leali’ifano have also benefited from the evolution of the rule to now turn out for Pacific Island countries.

Some have criticised the move from World Rugby, including the body’s former vice-chairman and ex-Argentina scrum-half Agustin Pichot.

“It’s a lot of outside noise to me, I try to focus on what happens inside the team and my family,” Kleyn said.

“I try to focus on the internal conversations I’m having.

“I know the reasons why I do things and I know those reasons will change,” he added.

The winner of Pool B is likely to be decided in Paris on Saturday, with Kleyn set to come up a host of his Munster team-mates and former international colleagues.

“They’re an incredibly clinical team, that’s the thing with the Irish, they tend to nail the details,” Kleyn said.

“Guys like Johnny [Sexton] and Peter [O'Mahony] are quite serious about driving the detail and not making small mistakes.

“They drive precision and execution. We’ll have to pitch up on the day,” he added.

– © AFP 2023

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