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‘I think I’m pretty blessed’: Jamison Gibson-Park ‘loving it’ in Leinster and Ireland setup

The veteran Ireland scrumhalf continues to perform and move like a player years younger, and draws inspiration from the younger players in the squad

“Loving it at the moment, yeah. I think I’m pretty blessed in that I’m involved with two pretty ambitious environments with Ireland and Leinster,” says Jamison Gibson-Park. That he is one of the principal players responsible for elevating levels, making the mundane camp life become ambitious is unsaid. But not overlooked.

The Irish scrumhalf sat it out for 73 minutes when Ireland played Italy, with Craig Casey bringing his full voltage of an annoying, busy, threatening force of nature to the game. Keeping Italy scoreless had its own satisfaction, particularly for defence coach Simon Easterby, but it was Gibson-Park who had to watch as his position was charged by Casey. Part of the unwritten contract for Gibson-Park is to remain schtum when building and managing squad players kicks in.

The Kiwi-born nine understands that everyone is going to get a crack and, he notes, “Craig obviously went very well. The way we’re training obviously helps and it’s pretty competitive in here as well, so when lads get their chance they’re pretty keen to have a crack. I think you saw that, certainly against Italy.”

Against Wales the threat may not be as obvious, as the players are not as well known or predictable after Warren Gatland’s squad refurb following the World Cup last year.


“Exactly yeah, some of the lads are proper game-breakers, aren’t they? They can certainly make something out of nothing and it’s something we have to be prepared for this weekend,” he says. “Sam Costelow? Yeah, I suppose he has a strong kicking game and it’s an area we have to be ready for. They have pretty good, contestable kicks on both of them. [Ioan] Lloyd might have a bit more of a running threat.”

Scarlets outhalf Costelow, fit again having missed the England match due to a neck injury, is the only change to the starting Wales team that narrowly lost at Twickenham in round two, with club team-mate Lloyd reverting to the bench following his first start at Test level. The better-known Tomos Williams starts at scrumhalf, the 29-year-old a face that Gibson-Park knows well.

But it’s from the younger Irish players that the veteran scrumhalf draws confidence and inspiration. He may be 31 years old but the late arrival, who earned his first Irish cap in October 2020, when he came off the bench against Italy, continues to perform and move like a player years younger.

“Yeah, it’s been pretty impressive to watch, hasn’t it?” he says of outhalf Jack Crowley. “He’s full of confidence and you see that in his performances, really. I wish I had that much confidence when I was his age but it’s the same as a lot of the young guys, they’re all the same these days. They’re unbelievable in how they prepare and someone my age takes some inspiration from these younger guys and the way they prepare.”

It was only as recently as mid-December of last year when the Department of Justice announced that Gibson-Park had become a citizen of Ireland. Two of his three children are Irish-born and his wife, Patti, was one of the other 6,205 people to get their piece of official paper that same day.

The new citizens swore the declaration of fidelity to the Irish nation in Dublin’s Convention Centre, a critical change to his status that would not have escaped him. In September 2017, Gibson-Park and Leinster captain Isa Nacewa were denied entry into South Africa due to visa restrictions. The pair had been due to play two matches for Leinster in the Pro14 against the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs.

In the Irish camp, coach Andy Farrell has generally been sensitive to personal landmarks for his squad members.

“I didn’t think the whole thing was going to blow up the way it did but here we are,” he says. “But Faz [Farrell] is pretty big on that kind of thing and it certainly helps the environment, so yeah, it’s enjoyable to be a part.”

The event also gave pause for reflection on his journey so far.

“Yeah, it did actually. Yeah, to get time to sit down and reflect on how things have gone because it’s something you don’t do often enough. Yeah, it was pretty awesome.”

It’s back down to business this week. No fuss. He says he thinks there are a few more years in the tank. A few people are counting on it.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times