Leinster bound Tyler Bleyendaal, a New Zealand-born Munster-made coach

Neck injury forced current Hurricanes attack coach to retire when he was 29 but he had already dipped his toe into the coaching world

Back in Munster for his third spell with the club he first joined in 2011, prop John Ryan’s close-up view of new Leinster coach Tyler Bleyendaal was of a player destined for coaching. The New Zealand outhalf arrived to play for Munster in 2015 and stayed until 2020.

A neck injury that delayed his arrival flared up intermittently, but not before Bleyendaal captained Munster and was named in the Pro 12 2016-17 Dream Team. That same year he won the Munster Senior Player of the Year award, beating Ryan, who was also among the nominations.

“It’s huge for him. He’s a relatively young coach but I know his calibre as a player,” says Ryan. “He unfortunately had a lot of injuries with us. He came in injured but the minute he came into us you could see he had that leadership.”

“And it was beyond leadership. He was nearly contributing to the coaching. He did a lot of hands-on coaching with us and was previewing and giving presentations to us, so you could always see he was going to be a top-quality coach. Leinster are a world-class club and to get that job as an attack coach is a huge credit to him. I was onto him yesterday and sent my congratulations.”

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Having shipped a yellow card against Cardiff last month at Thomond Park for foul play after a tip tackle on captain and hooker Liam Belcher, Ryan was then cited by the match commissioner with the resulting disciplinary process finding the incident merited a red card.

His good record insured a six-week ban was reduced to three, resulting in Ryan remaining in Ireland while Munster face the Bulls and Lions in the United Rugby Championship in South Africa this week and next.

“He’s a laid-back guy,” says Ryan of Bleyendaal. “I don’t want to call him detail-heavy but he’s very big on his detail. I got on really well with him. He takes his rugby very seriously.

“Rob Penney actually brought him in and I know Rob wasn’t here when he came in. I know Rob coached him when he was younger, so he obviously always had that in him. But when he came in he didn’t just want to sit by and do his rehab, he wanted to have an input. I think that was ingrained in him at an early age and he’s a natural coach.”

Bleyendaal was finally forced to retire from rugby in May 2020 after the neck injury became persistent. He had not lined out with Munster since the previous November and was advised to stop playing on medical grounds. He was still in his 20s and had lived in Limerick for five years, but returned to New Zealand and joined the Hurricanes coaching team later that year. At the time of leaving Johann van Graan was the Munster coach.

“He has played a huge role for Munster Rugby, not only on the field but also off the field, and he will be sorely missed,” said Van Graan at the time. “It was a pleasure to coach him, and I believe he has a very bright future ahead and will do very well if he moves into coaching.”

Prescience from Van Graan and no surprise to Ryan either that Bleyendaal has ended up at Leinster

“Oh, not at all,” says Ryan. “He was a brilliant player but just his injuries came on him again, I’d say after that 16-17 season. He had an unreal season and got Player of the Year. But unfortunately he fell back into more the coaching role again through injury.”

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