Irish and Scots set for punchy World Cup encounter, says Kleyn

Irish and Scots set for punchy World Cup encounter, says Kleyn


A lot is at stake in Ireland's Rugby World Cup pool match with Scotland and the atmosphere is set to be even more febrile as there is a "little bit of animosity" between them, former Irish lock Jean Kleyn has claimed.

Ireland's scrum-half Conor Murray (up) celebrates the victory at the end of the France 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between South Africa

The Irish will be favourites due to a 16 Test match-winning run, including an impressive 13-8 victory over defending champions South Africa a fortnight ago, and they beat the Scots in their last eight Tests.

Scotland, though, have bounced back from a disappointing opening 18-3 defeat by the Springboks to post convincing wins over Tonga and Romania.

South Africa sit atop Pool B on 15 points having played all their matches while the Irish are a point adrift with the Scots another four points back.

South Africa-born Kleyn is in the strange position of having played for Ireland at the last World Cup -- though he played no role in their opening pool win over Scotland -- but a fortnight ago came on as a replacement for the Springboks in their match.

"There's a high level of attrition," said Kleyn at a press conference.

"There's a little bit of animosity between the Irish and the Scots and there always has been, especially from a rugby perspective.

"At club level, you look at teams like Munster and Glasgow there’s always been this underlying -- I wouldn't call it hatred -- but there's a little bit of knife in the back.

"There's a real combative thing about it.

"For Ireland and Scotland (Tests), it's even more so. It's very much magnified at international level.

"Everything's a little bit closer to the bone and everything's a little bit more real. I think it's going to be a serious match."

- 'A facade' -

Among the many permutations there is a possibility, albeit remote, that the Springboks' title defence could end at the pool stage.

For that to happen Scotland would have to win by 21 points and both them and the Irish claim a bonus point.

"We're probably going to see Ireland win, but just because the Irish beat us last week I'd say I'd like to see Scotland win over them," Kleyn said with a laugh.

"No, realistically speaking, we'll probably see Ireland come out victorious there. They're a very good team at the moment."

As for whether he felt as calm about the match as he looked at the press conference, Kleyn replied: "Oh hell no. No. It's all a facade. It's my media face."

Kleyn is still contracted to Irish province Munster and said he had held talks with Ireland's forwards coach Paul O'Connell prior to the announcement of the squads.

The 30-year-old's chances of a recall were slim given he had not played for the Irish since the 2019 World Cup but he had impressed in Munster's United Rugby Championship victory over South Africa side the Stormers in May.

"I spoke to Paulie (O'Connell) before my call-up to the Springboks and they said I had a good season and had I been involved earlier on they might have gone for me," said Kleyn.

"But I think at that stage we'd all sort of made up our minds -- they'd decided what they were going to do and I'd decided what I was going to do.

"When you have a good season everyone looks at you a little bit differently. I'm just fortunate that Rassie (Erasmus) and Jacques (Nienaber) looked at me in a way that got me here," he said, of the Springboks' coaching setup.



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