Two Munster men made their Ireland debuts at the weekend with Jean Kleyn and Mike Haley earning their first international caps in Ireland’s 29-10 win over Italy on Saturday.
The clash at the Aviva Stadium was the first Rugby World Cup warm-up match for Joe Schmidt’s side with games against England and Wales (two) coming up ahead of the side’s departure to Japan.
Kleyn was handed a start on his debut with Haley featuring off the bench as Andrew Conway earned the Man of the Match award in a game that saw nine Munster men feature.
After making a big impression on his first Ireland cap, Kleyn said,
“I have to say I am bloody delighted. It has been an absolute honour representing my adopted country for the first time.
“A lot of hard work and then at the end of the day it pays of. I am just grateful to Munster, all the work the coaches have done with me and obviously the Irish coaches as well for giving me a shot.
“All my family hopped on a plane from South Africa when they heard (I would be involved in this game), so there was a good few of them actually sitting in the crowd today, so I’m delighted about that. It is good to know I can share it with them as well.”
Hear more from Kleyn below on Ireland Rugby’s YouTube page.
Following the game, Mike Haley said:
“When you’re making your debut off the bench, you actually don’t know what circumstance it’s going to come under. It was great to be able get around 20 minutes out onto the field.
“It was on Monday morning I found out that I was going to be on the bench. Then it was more just preparing this, that and the other. Obviously it’s very special to be able to make your debut. I was ringing around the family, seeing who could come over. Obviously my partner and baby were here for the game, so it was really special.
“It’s some thrill when you get your card and your name called. Up onto the edge of the pitch and off you go. It was great.
Haley made a big impression having joined Munster last summer and made 26 starts in his debut season at the province having joined from Sale Sharks.
His maternal grandmother hails from Tralee in County Kerry and Haley’s move to Ireland has proven a huge success.
“My Grandma has been drilling it into me every now and then! It came up when I was coming up out of contract (at Sale). I’d spoken to Munster a few times over the years and I kinda kept tabs with Joe (Schmidt).
“The opportunity came first to come to a province like Munster – that doesn’t come around all the time. I jumped at that and it was very much ‘go out and play and we’ll see what happens on the international scene’.
“You’ve got to be a little bit realistic about it. I’ve come into this with zero caps and now I’ve one cap. I can’t be expecting to go so far. I need to be short-minded and short-visioned that I’m going to do this for this week and then reset on Sunday and away you go again.
“That’s just my mentality. I don’t want to look too far into the future. I just want to enjoy what I’m doing at the time. That’s the first cap out of the way. I’ve got a bit of a taste for it now and I want to get some more.”