Belfast Telegraph

Potential for disaster has focused Munster minds, insists Kleyn


Pivotal clash: Jean Kleyn is targeting a vital win
Pivotal clash: Jean Kleyn is targeting a vital win

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

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

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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 knock-outs 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 minds this week as the Reds look to edge the head-to-head and 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 they took theirs and now we are playing them away and they are expecting to recoup the points here. It is down to us to keep them out of it now.

"Realistically speaking, 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 now but we still have a few very big matches ahead of us 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 this weekend 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. 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."

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