JEAN Kleyn has backed his Munster team-mate Gavin Coombes to take his improving game to the next level.
Skibbereen man Coombes (25) and Innishannon’s Jack Crowley (23) have both been included in Ireland’s squad for the upcoming Six Nations.
In some ways their inclusion is not surprising, given their importance to Munster and current form, but Coombes had work to do to force his way back into Andy Farrell’s plans following the Autumn Internationals in November when he didn’t feature and was released back to Munster.
Munster head coach Graham Rowntree has since described that as a ‘kick up the backside' for the Skibb man, but his response has been emphatic – Coombes has been in terrific form for Munster, firing a timely reminder of his talents.
‘He is flying it. He is reminding me of CJ (Stander) in terms of even his work rate the last few games. I mean the stats he racked up against Northampton, like 18 carries, 20 tackles, it is phenomenal stuff, really knocking on that door for Ireland,’ Jean Kleyn said.
‘You are making it very hard not to pick you if you are playing like that and creating those stats.
‘In fairness to him, he is very good at the moment and you are hoping it continues that way and he only gets better and in fairness to him, he has ever since he cracked onto the scene. He has only been improving.
‘He is always doing extras after training, never happy to just settle or being at the level he is. He wants to improve the whole time which is, especially in a young fella like him, you see that and at the level he is already at, you know there is only upwards for him.’
Coombes has been named as a backrow option for Ireland alongside Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Caelan Doris, Peter O’Mahony, Cian Prendergast and Josh van der Flier.
Meanwhile, while Jack Crowley’s inclusion at outhalf is no surprise, given how well he competed against Fiji and Australia in November, the omission of his Munster teammate Joey Carbery from the 37-man Ireland squad was notable. Crowley, Johnny Sexton and Ross Byrne were the three outhalves named.
Ireland kick off their Six Nations campaign away to Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, February 4th.
Meanwhile, Coombes, Crowley and former Clonakilty RFC player John Hodnett all started in Munster’s recent 20-16 Champions Cup loss away to Toulouse. Hodnett was one of Munster’s top performers and scored a try from close range in the opening half. Coombes’ stats were strong too – he had 15 tackles, 14 carries and made 37 metres. Josh Wycherley came off the bench in the second half to swell the West Cork interest. Next up for Munster in the competition is a last 16 tie away to Sharks at the end of March/start of April.