Jean Kleyn has started 13 of Munster’s 16 games this season, and it was somewhat typical of his selfless contributions that, for example, he latched on to Gavin Coombes for both of his tries against Northampton last Saturday.
Kleyn’s handling has never been his forte but those skills have improved beyond recognition in the last 12 months or so, demonstrating that you can teach an old dog new tricks, albeit he is still only 29, hardly vintage for a lock. Even so, every pack needs a workhorse and as ever Kleyn was content to have contributed to the team effort rather than any personal glory.
“You can definitely say that but I think between the four walls we notice those things, so I can’t say I do it without any plaudits. But I don’t mind doing the hard work and when you’re latching someone like Gav it’s not all that hard work,” admits Kleyn with a wry smile.
“He’s a big, strong fellah so he does a lot of it himself. But as long as the team wins at the end of the day and it’s for the benefit of the team I don’t mind doing it.”
Kleyn has watched Coombes’s progress over the last five seasons, and admits that the Skibbereen number eight is playing the best rugby of his career in the last couple of months.
“I’d say it is, but it’s not the best you’re going to see him play. He’s a young guy, he’s on his way up, and he’s working hard every day. He’s doing extras when other lads are walking of the pitch. He’s not happy being the player he is, he wants to be better.
“The way he’s playing he reminds of CJ. If you look at his stats from the weekend I think it was, like, 20 tackles and 18 carries or something. It’s a ridiculous work rate. He’s either tackling someone or carrying a ball every few minutes. If you think there’s 40 minutes ball in play, every minute of the game he’s involved, which is phenomenal as a stat.
“I think he’s playing very well at the moment, but I don’t want to blow too much smoke. He’s really doing well. Yeah, there’s only way and that’s up for him.”
Kleyn acknowledges that Munster will face a searching physical examination in their Pool finale next Sunday against Toulouse, not least from his counterpart, the 22st 12lb, 6′ 8″ Aussie-born lock Emmanuel Meafu.
“He’s a big boy and he moves pretty well for a fellah of that size, but I don’t think you can make too much out of one player in the game that we play. The way that we’re defending at the moment and the way we attack as well, it doesn’t really leave room for any one of their players to really expose us physically because we’re just fronting up game after game, tackle after tackle.
“I think Denis Leamy has drilled consistency into us through physicality and although he is a big fellah it’s not as if we’ve had billboards up, ‘Tackle Meafu’, you know what I mean?”