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'I’ve got a few good mates in there' - Gibson-Park hoping to get a shot at All-Blacks

New Zealand play Ireland at the Aviva Stadium next month.

Leinster's Jamison Gibson-Park.
Leinster's Jamison Gibson-Park.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

IT’S BEEN A long time since Jamison Gibson-Park’s family had the chance to watch him play live. He thinks on it for a second, and reckons it was probably 2018.

He’s hit a couple of notable career milestones since. An international debut this time last year, when supporters will still locked out of stadiums, followed by a first Test start a couple of weeks later.

Gibson-Park now has 10 Test caps to his name, and hopes to add to them over the coming months. If all goes to plan, his family will finally get to come watch him play in green sometime in the foreseeable future, if not this autumn, then maybe next summer.

“We haven’t got a plan for as early as November but hopefully some stage over the next 12 months I’d love for them to be over here,” he says. “And obviously there’s the Irish tour to New Zealand in summer next year, which I would obviously love to be a part of, I’ll be working my butt off to try and get on that anyway.”

Before Andy Farrell’s squad make the long trip south, New Zealand are due in Dublin on 13 November, which will be Gibson-Park’s first opportunity to play against the country of his birth since joining Leinster from the Hurricanes in 2016.

“It would be awesome (to play in that game),” he continues. “I’ve got a few good mates in there. 

jamison-gibson-park Gibson-Park has won 10 caps for Ireland. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“A few of the ‘Canes guys and then one of the other guys is Angus Ta’avao, I played with him at the Blues and we lived together and stuff, so we’re pretty friendly.

“They’ve obviously got a challenging end to their season with 14 or 15 weeks on the road by the time they’re finished their end-of-year tour. Spending that much time on the road can be tough for guys with families and that but it’s just the way things are at the moment.”

By now the Leinster scrum-half is well settled into Farrell’s Ireland system, with six starts under his belt. Throughout those experiences he feels he has grown as a player. 

“Maybe just from a leadership point of view, that’s the main thing. 

You obviously learn a lot in all those camps from a lot of good players around you and a good coaching team, so hopefully you can take the good bits and come back and help out our team here, which I like to think I have.”

On the club front, the format of the new United Rugby Championship league poses its own challenges for a player looking to catch the eye.

Gibson-Park, 29, has played a total of 89 minutes for Leinster across two games so far this season, with just two more rounds of fixtures to go until the league breaks for the international window. 

As Leinster rotate their squad in a bid to get everyone up to speed, players that are keen for gametime have to accept that opportunities will at times be limited.

(It’s) probably something I got better at over the years. When I first got here it was something I found quite hard because of the bit of chopping and changing. We were used to playing every week.

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“Big Mike Ala’alatoa has turned up and he says the same thing, because he is used to coming from the Crusaders where he would play every game in a row.

“It takes a bit of getting used to but we are lucky that the squad gets a bit of rotation and we have had a lot of depth the last couple of years. It’s only good for the team.”

Even more challenging, one presumes, when other scrum-halves are lighting it up elsewhere, with Munster’s Craig Casey and Ulster’s Nathan Doak both making strong starts to the new season.

“It’s one of those things, isn’t it? Probably one eye on the opposition and one on your own role, and trying to be the best you can be, which is obviously all you can do. Just a balance between not getting sidetracked with what other people are doing and focusing on (yourself).

“That’s all you can do.”

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Ciarán Kennedy

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