Jean Kleyn hasn’t played for Ireland since the 2019 World Cup, and just over two years to the day since his last appearance in green, he is unsure where he stands under Andy Farrell.
leyn has been on the outside looking in since Farrell took over as Ireland head coach, and despite the Munster lock’s consistent form, it hasn’t been enough to merit a recall.
The 28-year-old isn’t about to get hung up on it either because after-all, his inclusion in the World Cup squad ahead of Devin Toner caused major controversy.
A lot of water has crossed under the bridge since then, but the backlash, particularly on social media, stung, which led to the South African-born Kleyn going through a spell of not enjoying his rugby.
“You know, rugby is a fickle game,” Kleyn said.
“When it’s going well, it’s great. But if it isn’t going too well then yeah, you’d hate to be on the receiving end of a lot of it, I’d leave you to fill in that.”
It’s easy to read between the lines that the furore around Kleyn’s selection at the World Cup still leaves a sour taste.
The former Stormers player did his best to ignore the heavy, and at times, unfair, personal criticism that was aimed at him, yet it was only when he stopped looking at Twitter and the like, that he started to enjoy playing rugby again.
“I think a big thing for me was that I stepped away from any kind of social media,” Kleyn reflected.
“There was a time around the World Cup that I was getting a fair bit of backlash around my inclusion in the squad, which obviously was not really in my hands or my choice at all. Nonetheless, I was still delighted to be there and it was an incredible honour.
“But I think around then I started paying attention to what other people were saying about me and thought about me too much, and it sort of took the enjoyment out of it for me.
“I stepped away and sort of had a look at myself and my family and what I have, and I realised I don’t really play the game for people who criticise me or are cynical.
“I play the game because I enjoy the game and because my family love it and my friends love it.
“And you know, that’s why I do it, and I’ve just been doing it because of those reasons. I discovered my enjoyment again and it’s been superb.”
Kleyn will hope to maintain his impressive start to the season when Munster host Connacht tomorrow, and if he can catch Farrell’s eye in the process, all the better.
“You know what, I’m not too sure where I stand, to be honest with you,” Kleyn said with regard to his international ambitions.
“Obviously my aspiration is still to play. I think I’ve one or two more years in me (laughs), so I’d love to play internationals again.
“It’s an incredible honour and opportunity, so I don’t know where I stand at the moment but hopefully I can work my way back in.
“I heard from him (Farrell) before the summer series, I chatted to Paul (O’Connell) for a few minutes but look, you can only do what you can do, you can put your hand up and if you get noticed you get noticed, if not then, you know, move on.”