Jamison on ice as scrum-half downbeat about Ireland call
Jamison Gibson-Park has always known there would be a time and a date when the potential for switching national allegiance might dawn.
It’s a concept that remains distasteful for many within the sport globally, not just here – particularly ironic as the IRFU’s hedging on the future of the international game purportedly places them in the vanguard of old-world exclusion of the less privileged.
This Kiwi scrum-half is just a pro ball player, though, playing by the rules as they now stand; or at least, stood, given that he will be one of the last to take advantage of the three-year residency ruling. This summer, he can declare for Ireland.
“June?” we prompt. “August, I believe,” he replies.
Timely, then, given the beginning of the World Cup warm-ups.
“I don’t really know what the schedule looks like,” he demurs, before adding confirmation. “I haven’t been given the schedule.”
Perhaps the conversation might have been different during a sticky Six Nations for the Irish, with Conor Murray out of form, his club colleague Luke McGrath scratched, and the combined efforts of Kieran Marmion and John Cooney, based on minutes used, seemingly shorn of their coaching staff’s complete faith.
Now, McGrath is restored to full health, a natural back-up to a Murray revived in red; all the while Cooney and Marmion remain keen adversaries for that coveted plane ticket to Japan, the Ulster player’s versatility perhaps edging his candidacy.
And so Gibson-Park, perhaps more coveted in March than he might be in June, remains sanguine about his chances of getting a swift summons to Camp Ireland.
“I wouldn’t say so, no. Certainly if I was the coach, I’d probably be sticking with the guys who have played the last number of years.”
His case, it seems, is secreted behind glass. Break only in case of emergency. He joked before that he didn’t have Joe Schmidt’s number; communications haven’t been plentiful.
“Not really, in passing, a couple of times,” he muses, acknowledging the reality of this World Cup as a goal – “Not really, it would probably have to be beyond if I did think about it” – before conceding another.
“Yeah, I’d be ready to go,” he says, fully pressed.
A more pressing problem is his eligibility for Leinster; while awaiting his international clearance, prevailing regulations in Europe require that Leo Cullen’s men must at all times stand down one of their world-class imports; namely the consummate Gibson-Park, combustible wing James Lowe and the confrontational forward Scott Fardy.
“It will be nice in here so we won’t have to put up with that bloody rule,” he smiles, before joking of his colleagues, “I can’t stand them!”
“No, they’re good mates. We’ve got a pretty good foreign crew that hangs out together, partners and stuff.”
This week against Glasgow provides him with an audition to prove not only that he can become indispensable in Europe, but that others can be deemed less so; a tricky twin-pronged challenge.
“I’m obviously pretty excited for the opportunity, provided I can get a spot in the team for this weekend,” he says ahead of Glasgow’s Saturday visit to the RDS.
“It would be a nice chance to put my best foot forward because there is a lot coming up.
“There’s no doubt it’s pretty difficult. Like you say, everyone has their own personal ambition to get into the team.”
Ireland’s call will have to wait.