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Saturday 25 January 2020

Kleyn keen to force Saracens out of pool

Jean Klyen. Photo: Sportsfile
Jean Klyen. Photo: Sportsfile

Jean Kleyn and Munster know the stakes this weekend as they make the short hop to Barnet.

Beat Saracens and they put one foot in the European Champions Cup quarter-final, lose and they must beat Racing 92 in Paris to keep their hopes of a fourth successive trip to the knockouts alive.

With Mark McCall due to recall most of his World Cup stars for the return fixture after last Saturday's 10-3 reversal in Thomond Park, Munster are on guard for a backlash that could leave them in a perilous position. That, Kleyn says, has sharpened the minds at the University of Limerick this week as the Reds look to keep their ambitions on track.

"With the European Cup, what I have learned over the last few years, it is very much about the home and away fixtures," the second-row said.

"They have played us away and now we are playing them away and they are expecting to recoup the points. It is down to us to keep them out of it now.

"Realistically they are only five points behind. If we slip up this weekend and we have a poor performance they can come right back in and we could end up third on the log, which is not something we plan on doing.

"Position-wise, we're sitting in a fairly good place but we still have a few very big matches to close out the pool stages.

"Hopefully we can get the win and it will be a big win because if we win this week then Sarries effectively could be out of the running. It's a big onus on us to perform and to have that 80-minute performance."

That performance has been hard to come by given how Kleyn and his Ireland colleagues came back into a much-changed set-up after Stephen Larkham and Graham Rowntree took over from Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery while they were away at the World Cup.

After a summer learning the Joe Schmidt way, Kleyn returned from Japan and had to study the new game-plan at provincial level.

A month in, he says it's clicking: "It took me a few weeks I have to say to make the change over again," he said. "But, we're into it now. Obviously there are new things that have come in with the likes of Steve.

"There's a learning curve on everything, we have it fairly down now anyway. Now we can just put it into place and have a very good performance this week."

Despite the way it finished, he puts Japan down as a good experience.

"I don't think you can look at it just (through the prism of the All Blacks defeat)," he said.

"I think there was a lot of enjoyment to be had, it was an amazing experience for me personally, being quite new to the set-up it was a massive privilege."

As the power-forward in the Munster tight-five, the South Africa-born Ireland lock is there to set the physical tone against one of the best packs in the world.

"They are a world-class side, they showed that when they won the Premiership and the European Cup earlier this year. So you can't just put it down to size.

"Their players are skilful and well-drilled," he concluded.

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