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Performance of Jamison Gibson-Park leaves Andy Farrell facing a big selection call

The Leinster scrum-half made a number of positive contributions in Saturday’s defeat of Japan.

Ireland scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park.
Ireland scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IT’S ONE OF the few big selection calls facing Andy Farrell this week – Jamison Gibson-Park or Conor Murray?

The battle at scrum-half has been quietly heating up over the past year, Gibson-Park injecting positivity and tempo when given his chances, while Murray provided enough reliability and consistency to make it on a third Lions tour over the summer.

As Ireland comfortably dismantled Japan on Saturday, Gibson-Park was to the fore, providing a number of clever contributions in attack while also showing up in the right place to dot down a well-taken first half-try.

Murray must have been sitting uncomfortably in his seat. While the Munster scrum-half hasn’t necessarily done anything to warrant a slip down the pecking order, he heads into this weekend’s meeting with New Zealand a little cold in terms of gametime.

Since returning from South Africa, Murray has played just 21 minutes with Munster and 23 minutes with Ireland. His experience against the All Blacks is a big plus – he’s played against New Zealand 10 times with Ireland and the Lions, starting on each occasion – but he could surely do with more minutes in his legs.  

Gibson-Park, meanwhile, has looked sharp across a total of 161 minutes with Leinster and Saturday’s 57-minute run-out against Japan.

It’s an interesting call for Farrell, who is a big fan of the Leinster player. Should Gibson-Park get the nod this weekend, it will represent the first time he lines out against his native New Zealand.

“It’s a tough one, you probably don’t really get a sense of it until you’re out there,” Gibson-Park said of playing New Zealand.

jamison-gibson-park-scores-a-try Jamison Gibson-Park crossed for a first-half try against Japan. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I’m obviously hoping I’ll be involved. That will be a pretty special occasion no doubt but like I say it’s one of those where I won’t really know how it’s going to feel until you’re in the moment, so hopefully I am (selected).

“It’s probably what I have dreamt of since I came to Ireland so it would be pretty awesome for it to come to fruition. I’m looking forward to a big weekend, anyway.”

Gibson-Park thrived in the approach taken against Japan, chipping in with two try assists – including a lovely grubber to play-in Andrew Conway – and one offload across a clinical, commanding display. 

“I think, from my end anyway, it’s the way the game should be played, in a positive manner,” he continued.

It’s what the crowd wants to see. Hopefully we can keep at it. Obviously there is a lot to work on it and hopefully we’ll be the better for it next week but for the most part it was a really enjoyable day.

“I suppose when you look across the squad, for the most part the boys are well suited to playing this type of rugby so certainly going forward it will be a string to our bow.

“Coming up against better teams we will need to be better for sure but I think you saw some glimpses of how good we can be.”

Gibson-Park’s family won’t be able to make the long trip over from New Zealand this weekend, and have yet to see him line out for Ireland. It’s one sore point on what has been an impressive start to his international career, the 29-year-old notching up 11 caps since making his debut this time last year.

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A quiet presence around the squad at first, he’s beginning to find his voice at international level.

I feel as though I am able to add my 10 cents where it is needed. Coming from New Zealand, where I suppose we play the game of movement a lot, we can have some decent insights. Hopefully going forward we can continue on this trajectory and get even better.

“When I was first in the environment I would have tip-toed around a bit but I am happy to speak up a bit more now.”

Whatever way the selection falls, it will be a strange experience for Gibson-Park, who still has a number of good friends in the current New Zealand squad.

“I’m sure it won’t be too bad. They are obviously in their own bubble as well so it probably won’t even be possible to catch up with them outside of that.

“It would be nice to catch up with a few of those boys but that probably won’t be possible with the way that things are. We’ll see them on Saturday afternoon, I suppose.”

- Originally published at 07.00

BTL 5

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Ciarán Kennedy

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