MUNSTER’S exciting Kiwi out-half Tyler Bleyendaal admits playing his first competitive fixture at Thomond Park on Friday evening will be a ‘special moment.’
Twenty five-year-old Bleyendaal suffered a serious neck injury in September 2014 while playing for Canterbury in the ITM Cup. The injury required surgery and delayed the arrival of the 2010 Junior World Championship winning captain to Munster until January of this year.
Bleyendaal, who can play at out-half or inside centre, returned to full training towards the end of last season and played for Munster ‘A’ against Ulster Ravens at Naas in April.
While the talented New Zealander, who joined Munster on a three-year contract, made his senior debut for Munster at Thomond Park against Grenoble in August, Friday evening’s clash with Glasgow Warriors will be his first time to play a competitive fixture at the venue.
Bleyendaal said: “I am looking forward to Friday (Thomond Park), yes. I had a taste of it in pre-season, just to run out on the field. But to get the home crowd in a competition match it is going to be a great experience.
“You guys probably bring up the win - Munster over the All Blacks at Thomond Park on 1978 - more than we do.
“But Munster as a club is recognized all over the world and to play at Thomond Park, it’s going to be a special moment.
“I remember watching the game between Munster and the All-Blacks at Thomond Park in 2008. It was a tight match. We were probably a bit lucky, we were happy. We didn’t want a repeat that’s for sure!”
Bleyendaal has been pleased with Munster’s start to the PRO12 season which has seen Anthony Foley’s side back up their opening weekend home victory over Treviso with a dramatic away success over Ospreys at Liberty Stadium.
Bleyendaal said: “As a team we have developed nicely from last season especially. The style from back in New Zealand, we might have been more attacking focused.
“But here we use the ball a lot more and it is pretty exciting the way we are trying to play the game.
“There is a bigger emphasis on set-piece, kicking and field position here. But they are always the fundamentals of the game.
“Now as well we are looking to attack space wherever it is, so it’s exciting.”
Bleyendaal says the Munster coaches and himself are open-minded about the way he should play while filling in the out-half role. The former Canterbury star is also an accomplished inside centre.
“We are gelling nicely now. It has been slightly to and fro – they (coaches) are open to ideas about how to play. And I am open to their ideas about how to play for the last while.
“They have been very successful so they have to keep that in mind. When we are on the pitch, it’s all about just making decisions together and attacking the space. We have to go set-piece, we will play the kicking game.
“It might be weather dependent, but I think we have all of those options. With playing at ten or 12. I am flexible, I am looking forward to playing both positions, hopefully. And as many games as I can play. We will see how the season unfolds.”
Bleyendaal admitted he hadn’t realised how big a deal it was for the Munster squad to secure a win over the Ospreys in Wales. Munster scored a dramatic late win with a vital CJ Stander try.
“For myself, I probably didn’t realise how big of a win it was for us,” Bleyendaal said.
“We have had a bit of beating there in the past few years, and hadn’t had a great record. So to get that win on full-time was massive for the boys. The confidence, and just to re-enforce all of the good work we had put in, in the pre-season was great for us.”
Bleyendaal has been impressed with how Keith Earls has played through the opening World Cup fixtures.
“I probably didn’t know a lot about Keith just because of the injuries he has had.
“But he is a great player when he plays for Munster. And how he performs for Ireland, it is great to see.”