Having kicked his heels in frustration for the last 12 months as he recovered from a serious neck injury, 25 year-old New Zealander Tyler Bleyendaal is finally ready to make his first appearance in front of the Munster supporters when he lines out against French club Grenoble in this evening’s pre-season friendly at Thomond Park.
Bleyendaal has come highly recommended from Christchurch and Canterbury rugby (the home of Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter, among others) and that’s the main reason why so much is expected of him whether he plays at out-half or first centre. For now, he has nothing but Munster on his mind but that doesn’t mean he has ruled out wearing the All Black jersey at some future point.
“I have all options available to me still,” he explains. “I decided opportunities awaited. I had never been to Europe and this was a good chance to see a different part of the world. Munster as a club has a lot of history. They are very successful and it is a great opportunity. I am hoping I can get some opportunity here myself and contribute to the team.”
MunXV: Johnston; Sweets, Bohane, D’Arcy, GvdH; Bleyendaal, Sheridan; Ryan, Scannell, BJ; Madigan, Foley; Buckley, Coghlan, Copeland #MunVGre— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) August 13, 2015
Bleyendaal is fully aware of the way Munster protected and supported him when he must have been close to despair during his injury travails. He clearly appreciates the support he received from the coaching and medical teams and now reports that “the injury has been fine”.
“I have been training a long time and am looking forward to the matches. I have had no issues with my neck so I am looking forward to getting stuck in now. As rugby players, we like to play. That is our reward for working hard so I am excited for the season.”
Tyler lives in Limerick with his girlfriend, and his team-mate and countryman Francis Saili - whom we won’t see for another few weeks - has now moved in also. As for his new teammates, he says they “are a great bunch of guys”. “They have welcomed me in. I think we are developing nicely on the rugby pitch as well..
“I have probably played more at out-half, but I don’t have a preference. I am excited to play either position. I have been training at both and I have just enjoyed being in the mix.”
Tyler has lined out in the same side in Canterbury with the great Dan Carter. “You learn how he goes as a professional. He’s a dedicated trainer and he knows his game inside out. He can lead a team as well. I have taken some pointers, but obviously no one can replicate him. It is more just play what you can in your own game.”
Although Anthony Foley’s starting line-up is very far removed from what we can expect to see in the bigger matches to come, Munster fans will be delighted to see long-term injury victims Dave Foley and Robin Copeland included in the starting XV, along with former Clontarf centre Matt D’Arcy and Jordan Coghlan, recruited from the Leinster academy. He is just one of a number of talented younger prospects given a chance to catch Foley’s eye. Grenoble have enjoyed their week in Limerick where they made the Castletroy Park Hotel their headquarters and went through all the pre-season routines at nearby University of Limerick. Competitive games of darts occupied much of their leisure time while a few also made the trip to Lahinch to savour the the famous championship golf links.
Coach Bernard Jackman, like Foley, also intends to use as much of his large panel as possible as he prepares for the beginning of the Top 14 in which Grenoble have proved a match for the biggest clubs since their arrival in the top division four years ago.
They don’t include any particularly well-known internationals with the exception of former Springbok Gio Alpin, rather have the established themselves as a club with a proud tradition and a powerful work ethic.
Munster; D Johnston; D Sweetnam, C Bohane, M D’Arcy, G van den Heever; T Bleyendaal, C Sheridan - capt.; J Ryan, N Scannell, BJ Botha; J Madigan, D Foley; S Buckley, J Coghlan, R Copeland.
Replacements – K O’Byrne, P McCabe, R Burke, D O’Callaghan, S McCarthy, R Foley, B Johnston, D McCarthy, C Oliver, N Hodson, S McMahon.
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