No matter what Agustin Pichot thinks, the South African-born Munster lock has qualified by right and earned his place the hard way after three years of acclimatisation in Limerick.
An impressive Test debut against Italy on August 10, two days after his World Rugby-compliant residency requirement was completed saw Kleyn look comfortable at Test level although there will have been nervousness at his status following a shaky second cap in the heavy defeat and lineout shambles against Twickenham a fortnight later.
Now, though, Kleyn is up and running and the only way is up for the 26-year-old.
The head coach’s stand-in captain won the battle for the final back-row spot, his ability to cover all three positions and be viable lineout option pushing over the edge at the expense of another Joe Schmidt favourite in Jordi Murphy. Ruddock, an injury replacement in 2015, gets a seat on the team flight to Japan this time around.
Twenty two years after his uncle Derek McGrath made Ireland’s first World Cup squad, the Leinster scrum-half was rewarded for excellent recent form with Leinster and Ireland with his selection over Kieran Marmion as back-up to Conor Murray.
Bringing forward the squad announcement saved the Ireland management a whole heap of unnecessary stress in their belief they could keep it under wraps until next Sunday. While sensitive to the feelings of those omitted players, the ones actually chosen had momentous news to share with family, friends and agents and their good news was already leaking fast enough to persuade the IRFU to publish and be damned.
A faithful servant to the Schmidt cause for Leinster and Ireland, Toner’s failure to make the final cut as one of the four locks going to Japan was the major surprise of Ireland’s World Cup squad selection yesterday. At 33, there is still plenty to offer and his absences from the Ireland second row have tended to highlight his rivals’ inability to lead the lineout, most recently on August 24 when the set-piece imploded against England at Twickenham.
Like all those other players left at home, we may well see Toner in Japan eventually as an injury replacement but for now, his omission goes down as Schmidt’s biggest and bravest call.
Having moved from Sale Sharks to Ulster, the home of his Enniskillen grandmother, last summer, Addison was fast-tracked into Joe Schmidt’s World Cup plans but the skilful and versatile back, an asset at full-back, centre, wing and out-half, saw his ambitions thwarted by back surgery in the spring and minor calf injury this summer that hampered his ability to make an impression in Ireland’s pre-season training. Saturday’s impressive turn as starting full-back, disrupted by a blood injury and cramp in his first game since March, was unfortunately too little, too late.
Just two summers ago, McGrath was a British & Irish Test Lion in New Zealand but a combination of injury, bad timing and the resurgence of Cian Healy at the top of the loosehead prop pecking order in Ireland has undermined both form and confidence. Dave Kilcoyne’s tour de force as the starting number one in Cardiff last Saturday and a star turn off the bench from switch-hitting tighthead Andrew Porter were the final nails in McGrath’s World Cup coffin and he will now have to refocus his sights on a fighting comeback as he leaves Leinster for Ulster.