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'Gibson-Park has the potential to cause defences a huge amount of problems'

The Ireland scrum-half came in for praise on this week’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra.

Jamison Gibson-Park made his first start for Ireland last Friday night.
Jamison Gibson-Park made his first start for Ireland last Friday night.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

CONOR MURRAY HAS owned Ireland’s number nine jersey for a long time now, having essentially been the first-choice since 2011, so it was always going to be fascinating to see how Jamison Gibson-Park played last Friday night.

The Leinster man got his first Test start for Ireland in the 32-9 win over a poor Wales team and impressed as he played the full 80 minutes, with Murray coming on at out-half due to injuries.

Gibson-Park’s performance came in for praise as Eoin Toolan and Murray Kinsella discussed Ireland’s win on yesterday’s edition of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra – an analysis podcast available to members of The42 every Monday.

With Ireland boss Andy Farrell naming his team to face England tomorrow afternoon, it will be intriguing whether he brings Murray back into the number nine shirt or backs Gibson-Park again.

“Tempo, I thought there was a noticeable tempo to Ireland’s attack,” said Eoin – who is assistant coach and head of analysis at Japanese club Kintetsu Liners – of what he likes about Gibson-Park’s game.

“He’s an exceptionally quick halfback, he just seems to get to the breakdown really, really quickly and provides time and space for those around him.

“He looks like he has a really good feel for the game. I thought his basics were good, he exited well and probably box-kicked more than Conor had done in the previous two Test matches but they were effective and gave his chasers a real opportunity to apply pressure.

“We saw a couple of snipes, just attacking those first two defenders around the breakdown. At one stage in the second half, the red sea just opened up for him and I think most nines would have taken advantage of that space.

“But it creates a little bit of uncertainty for the Welsh defenders having that sniping threat in and around the base of the ruck. I just felt he added a great degree of tempo to Ireland’s attack at times.

“Ireland will be really disappointed with their breakdown work, they had nine rucks lost in the game which probably denied them rhythm into their attack as the game progressed.

“If they can supply really fast breakdown for Gibson-Park, I think he has the potential to cause defences a huge amount of problems.”

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jamison-gibson-park Gibson-Park box kicks against the Welsh. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Murray was in agreement about the running danger Gibson-Park posed as he carried the ball six times for 17 metres.

“That scooting threat is good to see and there was one example in the build-up to the near-try in the 14th minute, a really long passage of play, and we just see a couple of steps on that arc from Gibson-Park to open up space for Johnny Sexton to run into,” said Murray.

“His head is always up, scanning as he gets to the breakdown and his decision-making is good. He is different to Conor Murray, there is maybe more invention and a willingness to bounce away from the plan. He is good at reading that shortside but in fairness to Conor Murray, he has done that well in previous games and it is a real trend in their game.

“Just to pick up on the kicking, I thought a couple of them were a little more infield that he intended or do you think that was part of the plan? We’re used to seeing those box kicks flying down the five-metre channel close to the touchline…” 

Eoin had some fascinating thoughts on Ireland’s kicking game.

“Definitely off the left side, he was going close to the touchline,” said Eoin. “On the right side, he was kicking infield and it’s hard to know yet if that’s a definite ploy.

“We chatted about New Zealand doing that to Australia a few weeks ago in Sydney when it was a definite ploy. What it does is give uncertainty to the opposition escort.

“Traditionally, guys escorting back are doing it close to the touchline where the prominent kick chasers are coming from. If that kick starts to go infield and you’ve got a kick chase option on the other side of the breakdown, so working towards the middle of the field, then it creates a few problems for the opposition escorters and the catchers.

“Twice, Ireland did it and got the ball back through a Welsh error. It’s uncertain if it’s a definite ploy but having seen New Zealand do it a few weeks ago, it could be a strategic shift in the game.”

Yesterday’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra also saw the lads discussing James Lowe’s impact on debut, Ireland’s set-piece attack, their worrying third-quarter performance, and the injury to captain Johnny Sexton.

There was also plenty of discussion about Argentina’s sensational first-ever win over the All Blacks on an emotional day in Sydney.

You can sign up as a member of The42 here in order to listen to the extra rugby podcasts and a wide range of other shows on sportswriting, football, GAA, and coaching, as well as getting weekly newsletters and access to our lively member-only Whatsapp groups.

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