Monday 19 March 2018

How a Munster hero pointed Gibson-Park in Leinster's direction

Jamison Gibson-Park: 'awesome opportunity'
Jamison Gibson-Park: 'awesome opportunity'
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

If Jamison Gibson-Park proves to be a real success for Leinster, Munster might want to have a word with Jason Holland.

When the Kiwi scrum-half was first contacted by the Blues about moving to Ireland, he sought the counsel of the former Munster centre who is now a highly regarded coach with the Hurricanes.

Old rivalries were laid to one side and the man known as 'Dutchy' gave Leinster a ringing endorsement, helping to convince the 24-year-old to move half-way across the world and join the three-time European champions. He's settling in now, capping his first start against Edinburgh on Friday night with a try, and already the quality of his passing is impressing.

With Eoin Reddan retired and Isaac Boss back in New Zealand, there is a vacancy at No 9.

"I've been given a pretty awesome opportunity by a really wicked club," is how Gibson-Park sees the move.

"First and foremost I've to put my head down and do all I can to earn the jersey, that's my first focus.

"I spoke to Jason; he'd been at Munster and he couldn't say enough about the club.

"I spoke to a few Kiwi guys like Isa (Nacewa), Hayden Triggs, Michael Bent - I knew him from a few years back in Taranaki - so I was able to talk to a few guys and they all said the same thing: that it was an awesome environment."

Gibson-Park is a Maori All Black and in his Twitter bio he describes himself as "New Zealand through and through", but he has signed up to be a project player who could one day represent Ireland when he qualifies through residency.

Like most imports in similar circumstances, he wouldn't be drawn on his international ambitions, understandably emphasising that he's only recently arrived.

At the Hurricanes, he won the Super Rugby championship this year but spent the campaign on the bench behind All Black TJ Perenara, coming on to close out games that were already won.

Whether his international ambitions lay in black or green, he knew he needed to be starting games and given the quality of scrum-half in New Zealand, the offer to come to Ireland, where the resources at No 9 are fallow, was too good to turn down.

"The depth of talent in New Zealand, there's some very good half backs coming through," he said.

"When an opportunity like this comes up you have to consider it. . . when it came up it was a no-brainer.

"It is pretty awesome to be given such a wicked opportunity by a powerhouse club, in terms of Europe standards."

Irish Independent

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