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 Leinster's Jimmy Gopperth.

Leinster's Jimmy Gopperth.

Leinster's Jimmy Gopperth.

"JIMMY who?" some said in March when the New Zealander was revealed as a new signing.

"Jimmy Gopperth" his talent has replied.

And he's not just a goal-kicking sensation either. Seán O'Brien's savage, hand-off to the sternum of Dan Biggar was almost trumped by Gopperth's try-saving obliteration of Jeff Hassler deep into the final quarter of the epic 19-9 win at The Ospreys last Saturday.

"I thought we were in the s**t, to be honest," he said, recalling the hit.

Typical of the man, he was eager to point out the off-the-ball work of Mike McCarthy which took the gamble out of what Gopperth should do with the runaway wing Hassler.

"Looking at the review, as Matt pointed out in the review, a lot of credit had to go to Mike McCarthy. He was on the inside of a couple of players.

"His work rate to get back and just 'scrag' him, slow him down, helped me make a decision on what to do. If he didn't do that, it was a two-on-one. It was all over.

"When you're in that situation, it's either you make the tackle or it's a try. Fortunately, this time it came off".

It has taken Gopperth some time to make his way back to top flight rugby. His loyalty to Newcastle Falcons kept him in the English Championship at Kingston Park when others would have flown for a better level of competition.

"I have been brought up in a little coastal town. Loyalty is a big thing I got drummed into me as a kid. I didn't want to just run out on them when they were in the s**t.

"Even though I was not from Newcastle – I was from a million miles away – I thought I just had to stay and give them an opportunity to get them back to where they wanted to be.

"The north-east has got a big rugby community and they want to be there (in the Premiership). I didn't want to run out on them. I did have some opportunities to go".

Why Leinster? Why now? "The opportunity arose. When you get an opportunity to come to a club like Leinster, you don't turn it down.

"That was pretty much it. I had the opportunity to get out of my contract, if I wanted to, each year. As soon as this came, it was all about putting it into plan."

Besides, the three years spent at the Wellington Hurricanes and one at the Auckland Blues sharpened his attacking intentions, while the four years at Newcastle concentrated his mind on defence.

The upshot is an all-round footballer, equally at home either side of the ball: "My time in Newcastle, even though we didn't get a lot of winning rugby, has helped my development. Huge.

"Coming from New Zealand, I was in a pretty successful team, a lot of go-forward ball. Then, going to Newcastle, where we were on the back-foot a lot, it has developed my game management and the control of the tempo of the game".

Gopperth had to do so much for the team at Newcastle that he may have sacrificed what was best for him for the greater good of the collective.

The move to the three-time Heineken Cup winners has given him the time and space to concentrate on making a difference, knowing he can trust the players around him.

"Leinster is one of the best clubs in the world. To have the guys you play alongside each week, it makes you concentrate on just your job because you know everyone around you will do their job."

And what a job it is to walk into a club grieving the loss of the best fly-half in Europe and straight into a dual with the man who would be King Ian Madigan.

"I knew coming over here, especially watching last year, how well Ian went. The way I looked at it was, that it is a brilliant challenge for myself.

"We try and better each other. A little slump in form, the other one will slip straight in. That is the way we try and work it".

Gopperth also knew that he would be coming to a club that looks to innovate, be creative in the way it opens up defences. That appealed to the Hurricane inside him.

"Everyone talked about Leinster and how they come with new moves. They are a great, skilful side. Every club sees their moves and tries to emulate them. We did it at Newcastle and it was the same all around England.

"That is the beauty about Leinster. They're not afraid to have a crack and be inventive with what their starter moves are and not just looking to set plays up to gain possession.

"It is about setting up tries off the first phase. Everyone is on board with that and everyone's got the skill set to do it."


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