Payne: no change of heart from De Villiers

MUNSTER manager Shaun Payne has laughed off claims that new South African signing Jean De Villiers has had a change of heart about joining the province.

Payne insisted the big centre “was with us two weeks ago and spent some time having a look around Cork and Limerick. Having been with him and discussed the situation with him, there’s no chance of that.”

Payne revealed De Villiers will return to Ireland within hours of South Africa’s Tri Nations game with Australia on Saturday, September 12 ahead of the deadline for Heineken Cup registration five days later.

Payne added: “While he doesn’t have to be physically present, the releases have to be in place and all the paperwork completed. He will be joining us before September 17”.

Payne said of De Villiers: “His form has been very good and it’s all very positive. Jean has played in every single Test which is good for him. He has had some very unlucky injuries, especially in the World Cup, and it’s good to see him go through the whole Tri Nations without even looking like getting injured.

“I think he has played a little differently in recent games, he has taken a lot more ball up and been more direct while they have also been using him in a decoy role. Look at Habana’s try at the weekend and Fourie as well when he scored off first phase. Jean is well capable of carrying the ball up and he’s got the skill plus the pace to be able to make a hole and go through it. Don’t forget he also played a lot on the wing for the Boks. We’re delighted he’s joining us; 6ft 3 inches and over a hundred kgs is impressive”.

Payne was non-committal as to when De Villiers would make his debut for Munster but admitted “it would be before the Heineken Cup and roughly in line with when the Lions are back”

As for the possibility of De Villiers playing for the Springboks against Ireland at Croke Park in November, Payne pointed out: “Their management has indicated that they won’t be selecting people if they’re not based in South Africa. Jean is a senior player and whether exceptions are made for that we’re not sure”.

Munster were much taken by the fact that Tom Croft lined out against them for Leicester Tigers in last Friday’s “friendly” at Welford Road whereas, with the possible exception of John Hayes, Munster’s Lions contingent won’t be available until the fourth round of the Magners League, the glamour clash with Leinster, a week before the opening Heineken Cup game against Northampton at Franklins Gardens.

While a source of frustration for the Munster management, Payne understands the IRFU’s stance on the matter.

“We all want what is best for the players and while we may be a little disappointed here and there, in the end we are all pulling in the same direction,” he said.

“We’re working in conjunction with the national management. Obviously, there will be one or two disagreements. We want what is best for Munster and the national management want what is best for the national team. At the end of the day, though, it’s really the players we both want to look after and so within that framework, we managed to come to an agreement”.


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