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Jamison Gibson-Park hopes they’ll be dancing on the streets of his native Great Barrier Island on Saturday


Jamison Gibson-Park hopes he's celebrating a Grand Slam on Saturday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Jamison Gibson-Park hopes he's celebrating a Grand Slam on Saturday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Jamison Gibson-Park hopes he's celebrating a Grand Slam on Saturday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Back home on Great Barrier Island, one of Jamison Gibson-Park’s Ireland jerseys takes pride of place in his local pub The Currach, which is owned by an Irish family.

There’s another green jersey hanging up in the clubhouse of the golf club down the road. Even on such a small island with a population of approximately 1,000 people, there are little reminders of Gibson-Park’s success from the other side of the world.

The scrum-half’s three jerseys from last summer’s series win in New Zealand didn’t quite make it into the public sphere. Instead, Gibson-Park’s grandmother and best man from his wedding got one each, while he kept one himself. 

Come Saturday, there will be plenty of Kiwis getting up in the early hours to watch Gibson-Park attempt to win a Grand Slam with his adopted country. If everything goes according to plan in Dublin, it could be a lively morning when The Currach opens its doors.

Growing up on the island off Auckland, Gibson-Park can recall the St Patrick’s Day parades that would take place – a tradition that is still upheld to this day thanks to the Irish community based there.

“There are a few Irish families who have been there for a good few years now,” Gibson-Park says.

Although plenty of Gibson-Park’s family still live on Great Barrier Island, his parents as well as his wife’s parents live on the mainland in Gisborne.

From the moment he joined Leinster seven years ago, Gibson-Park has been around for Ireland’s various highs and lows, but more recently, he has been front and centre of Andy Farrell’s team.

“It blossomed over the years,” the 31-year-old acknowledges of his international ambitions.

“It was the same thing with Chicago in 2016 (beating the All Blacks for the first time). I was sitting there thinking, ‘It would be pretty awesome to be part of this’. It was all part of the process.

“I was lucky enough to witness 2018 (Grand Slam). It just looked unbelievable. It would have been an awesome thing to be a part of. Ever since then (it was in my head).

“It was unbelievable to witness, pretty special times, and now we have a chance to do it again.”

Injuries haven’t been kind to him this season having struggled with separate hamstring issues, but he made a successful return in Murrayfield last weekend and could get the nod to start against England at the Aviva Stadium this weekend.

Gibson-Park has been working with Einar Einarasson, a renowned physio, who has started helping Ireland players struggling with significant injuries.

“It was a tough one, probably the toughest injury break I’ve had, to be honest,” Gibson-Park admits.

“Normally, I just get on with things; it’s part of the game, just get stuck into the rehab process, but this one was pretty tough.

“Knowing how good a side we’ve got and how good of a chance we had to go pretty well, it was definitely a little bit tougher than normal watching on. But yeah, it was nice to be out there at the weekend.

“It was kind of a strange one. I’ve had a few hammy injuries, particularly over the last number of years, but this was completely different altogether. Weird, but we’ve got some pretty good help in here to get things right. 

“We’ve got a new guy, Einar, the master of movement from Iceland.

“He has been great with the rehab for myself, Tadhg (Furlong), Robbie (Henshaw), Johnny (Sexton); all these guys rehabbing injuries.

“It’s been awesome to work with him. He has worked in professional basketball and with a number of sprinters and footballers and stuff, so he has a different perspective. To be honest, I’ve probably never felt better, so it’s all going pretty well.”

Gibson-Park made a big impact off the bench in the second half of the win over Scotland last Sunday, in what was his first appearance of this season’s Six Nations.

With other players struggling to prove their fitness in time for Saturday’s Grand Slam decider, Gibson-Park’s return is very timely.

“It kind of feels like we have been here before,” he adds.

“In a few ways, it feels similar to the last week in New Zealand, where we probably didn’t have as many injuries, but it was the end of a long season or a long campaign. It’s about looking after the bodies and getting the minds right.

“They (England) will be hurting. They obviously haven’t seen that happen in Twickenham before, so they will be desperate to turn that round, which will make them difficult to play against. Tempo is a crucial thing for our game, and we’ll try to implement it as best we can.”

The locals will be dancing on the streets of Great Barrier Island if their home-town hero enjoys another special day in an Ireland jersey that will be hot property, just like his others. 

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