Munster's Jean Kleyn set to make Ireland debut at first opportunity

Jean Kleyn
Jean Kleyn

Munster lock Jean Kleyn will make his Ireland debut against Italy on Saturday - just two days after qualifying on residency.

The 25-year-old joined Munster from the Stormers in his native South Africa in 2016, and completed his three-year residency qualification on Thursday.

Now the combative second row has the chance to state his World Cup case, as Ireland take on the Azzurri in their first warm-up match for Japan.

Munster team-mate Andrew Conway believes Ireland are gaining a gritty competitor in Kleyn, who loves nothing more than smashing into opponents.

"I'd say he's mad for a game in green," Conway said of Kleyn.

"After the game there will be celebrations about his first cap, but before it's just business really.

"Getting your first cap is a huge deal, so it will be massively celebrated afterwards.

"He's probably a different type of player than most in the country, in that he just loves contact; he loves hitting rucks and hitting people.

"He's had a big impact at Munster, and hopefully he can have something similar here, with the impact he can have in collisions."

Head coach Joe Schmidt has returned to his native New Zealand this week following a family bereavement.

Assistant coach Andy Farrell confirmed Schmidt will be back in Ireland come the weekend, but admitted it is yet to be determined which coach will take charge on Saturday.

Asked if he or Schmidt will lead Ireland on Saturday, Farrell said: "That's up to Joe, so we'll see.

"Joe will be back in the country soon and will be in and around the set-up at the weekend.

"Obviously it's unfortunate circumstances. I didn't think I'd be here reading the team out on a Thursday, because that's Joe's job.

"But it's been fine, we're following the plan we've always followed all the time under Joe."

Ireland are likely to select four locks in their final 31-man World Cup squad, with Devin Toner, James Ryan and Iain Henderson already nailed on.

Kleyn is battling for the likely final lock berth then, and will partner dependable Leinster star Toner at the Aviva Stadium this weekend.

Leinster flanker Rhys Ruddock will captain a much-changed Ireland line-up from their Six Nations exploits, with head coach Schmidt handing a host of fringe players a chance to impress.

Former Sale full-back Mike Haley could make his Test debut off the bench, with Jordan Larmour taking the first chance in these warm-up matches to prove his credentials at 15.

Joey Carbery starts at fly-half with Johnny Sexton continuing to recover from a thumb complaint, with Leinster's Luke McGrath at scrum-half.

Munster flanker Tommy O'Donnell will win his first cap since March 2016, with Jordi Murphy slotting in at number eight.

Wing Dave Kearney features for the first time since November 2017, further underscoring Schmidt's determination to hand out the opportunities.

Ireland team to face Italy in Dublin on Saturday: J Larmour (Leinster); A Conway (Munster), G Ringrose (Leinster), C Farrell (Munster), D Kearney (Leinster); J Carbery (Munster), L McGrath (Leinster); J McGrath, R Herring (both Ulster), A Porter (Leinster); D Toner (Leinster), J Kleyn (Munster); R Ruddock (Leinster, capt), T O'Donnell (Munster), J Murphy (Ulster). Replacements: N Scannell (Munster), C Healy (Leinster), John Ryan (Munster), I Henderson (Ulster), T Beirne (Munster), K Marmion, J Carty (both Connacht), M Haley (Munster).

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