Jean Kleyn, who has signed a new contract this week
MUNSTER second-row Jean Kleyn, who is Irish qualified next September, said he would love the opportunity to play for Joe Schmidt’s side.
Second-row Kleyn this week signed a three-year contract extension with Munster and the IRFU that will see him remain with the province until June 2022.
The 25-year-old South African-born lock joined Munster just over two years ago and made his debut for the Reds in September 2016.
Kleyn is eligible for Ireland selection under existing World Rugby residency rules in September 2019 – just before the World Cup in Japan – and he has already expressed his interest in playing for Ireland.
Another of Kleyn’s South African-born team mates at Munster, CJ Stander, has become an integral part of Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad since becoming Ireland qualified in recent years.
Kleyn said earlier this year: “When I moved over I knew full well that my career wouldn’t be continued in South Africa,” he said in January of this year.
“I’ve laid down my roots here and I’m pretty intent on just staying here and if it happens that I do get the call-up to the Irish squad in the future, I’d love to play, but obviously that’s not set in stone or anything like that.
“I’m just going to keep playing my rugby and hope I’m good enough to make the cut.
“I really love the place. I've nothing to complain about.
“I even think the climate suits me a bit better because I prefer the cold to the hot! I actually do. I get hot really easily so the cold climate really suits me.
“The guys always make fun of me because I'll be wearing shorts and flip-flops well into winter, that's just how I am!
“I've really bought into the place I think and it's the people as well. The people are so friendly and welcoming that you sort of have no choice but to feel at home, if that makes sense.
“I've been loving the place and I don't see myself moving anywhere quickly,” he continued in a Sky Sports interview.
“I've met some really good friends and sort of found a family of my own here in Munster and I've said it before, when I'm going back to South Africa I don't really feel like I'm going home, I feel like I'm going home when I board the plane in South Africa to come here.
“It's an odd feeling but it's the truth.”
Kleyn has scored six tries in 42 appearances for Munster.
The powerful second row earned his first Munster Player of the Year nomination last season after an outstanding campaign that saw him make 25 appearances, including 23 starts.
Meanwhile, Munster centre Rory Scannell insists the squad’s confidence has not been hit by their disappointing display away to the Cardiff Blues on Friday night.
Munster are gearing up to welcome Ulster for a crucial Guinness PRO14 interprovincial at Thomond Park this Saturday, 7.35pm.
Scannell said: “I don’t think the confidence is down. We know what we are capable of winning performances and we’re not really worried about that it’s disappointing to lose two of our first four games.
“We’re pretty confident we can go out this week and put in a good performance so we’re not getting too down on ourselves this early in the season and we have quite a big challenge ahead of us on Saturday and I’m really looking forward to it.”