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Gibson-Park brushes talk of Ireland to one side to focus on winning silverware with Leinster

Becoming eligible through the residency rules is within the scrum-half’s ambit, but his primary goal is to play in blue.

Gibson-Park at Leinster's UCD base yesterday.
Gibson-Park at Leinster's UCD base yesterday.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

JAMISON GIBSON-PARK, Leinster’s Kiwi scrum-half, insists he hasn’t even considered the possibility of playing for Ireland when he meets the current three-year eligibility criteria in June 2019.

The 25-year-old, who represented the Maori All Blacks, joined Leinster from the Hurricanes as a project player on a three-year contract in May 2016, and would become available for national selection ahead of the 2019 World Cup under the residency rules.

World Rugby extended the controversial three-year eligibility criteria to five years in May, but the new law comes into effect from January 2021, meaning Gibson-Park would be be allowed to represent Ireland at the end of his current contract with Leinster.

But the New Zealand native says it’s not something he’s given much thought to, even though fellow project players and compatriots Bundee Aki and Tyler Bleyendaal have been involved in training camps with Joe Schmidt’s squad recently.

“Potentially, I haven’t honestly given it any thought,” he said, when asked if he would like to play for Ireland down the line.

“It’s a pretty cool opportunity for those guys to represent where they are now but we just have to see how it goes really, long way to go.”

Jamison Gibson-Park scores his sides first try Gibson-Park scored Leinster's first try of the season against Dragons. Source: Camerasport/Ashley/INPHO

When you signed for Leinster was it something you had in the back of your mind that one day you could play international rugby for Ireland?

“Not really, to be honest. I was gifted to have this opportunity, and blessed to have it, with Leinster.”

Gibson-Park’s focus is firmly on grasping that opportunity with Leinster.

His debut season at the club saw him fall behind Luke McGrath in the scrum-half pecking order and his chances were limited throughout a campaign he started just nine games in.

Although he was content to fulfil the bench role initially, Gibson-Park is now targeting more starts this term and his season got off to a good start with a try in the bonus point win over Dragons.


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“I’d obviously love to start more but it’s up to the coaches,” he continued. “I can only do my best and put my front foot forward. Just have to see how we get on. I’ve always said that any sort of rivalry is good in this environment.”

The former Blues and Hurricanes nine explained that the bitter disappointment of defeat to Scarlets in the Pro12 semi-final last year is driving him and the squad on to end the province’s four-year trophy drought.

Sean O'Brien, Scott Fardy and Jamison Gibson-Park The Kiwi (far right) is expected to be in the squad for Leinster's trip to South Africa. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

“It was obviously very disappointing that day against Scarlets, bitterly disappointing because we were very poor and we want to rectify that,” he said. “Having the Pro14 final in the Aviva again is a massive draw card for us so we really look forward to it.

“It’s definitely a big driver for a lot of us [the hurt from last year]. We’ve got to learn from those [mistakes] and rectify it. It’s something you’ve got to hang onto. The pain will never go away, you always look back thinking what could you have done although it’s probably not the best mindset to have. Just bottle it up and use it.”

On his own aspirations for this season, Gibson-Park added: “I’d like to win something. We’re really just focusing on day-to-day and week-to-week. We’ve had a good start with a couple of bonus point wins and we have to really progress that.”

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