Jamison Gibson-Park contemplating blue reboot rather than green jersey

The Kiwi scrum-half is now eligible for his adopted country via the residency rule
Jamison Gibson-Park contemplating blue reboot rather than green jersey

Jamison Gibson-Park during Leinster Rugby squad training at UCD in Dublin ahead of the season opener against Dragons. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Jamison Gibson-Park insists his primary focus for the new season is simply banking game time with Leinster rather than eyeing up an Ireland jersey.

The Kiwi scrum-half is now eligible for his adopted country via the residency rule but he is operating in a ridiculously crowded field that starts at club level where he is behind Ireland's Luke McGrath in the pecking order.

Gibson-Park is, if anything, an underrated player outside of his own team environment but the glut of scrum-halves angling for Andy Farrell's attention also includes the likes of Conor Murray, John Cooney and Kieran Marmion.

“I’ve got to do work to get into the nine jumper for Leinster,” said Gibson-Park ahead of Leinster's Guinness PRO14 season opener against Dragons at the RDS tomorrow. “So that’s my main obligation.”

Leinster players, from left, Jonathan Sexton, Luke McGrath, Jamison Gibson-Park, and Ross Byrne celebrate after the Guinness PRO14 final. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Leinster players, from left, Jonathan Sexton, Luke McGrath, Jamison Gibson-Park, and Ross Byrne celebrate after the Guinness PRO14 final. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

This will be his fifth season in Dublin since the move from the Hurricanes and he wonders aloud where that time went. The toughest point was probably earlier this year when lockdown was at its tightest and his family and friends back home in New Zealand were enjoying life as usual.

That aside, it's been all good.

“Yeah man absolutely. I’ve got a young family. Life for me is a lot different to a lot of these south Dublin lads living at home and that kind of craic. It’s gone really good, my family has settled in really well and enjoyed every minute of it. Just getting started now, so here’s to a few more years.”

If those years are starting to blend into each other as time goes on then the pandemic hasn't helped. It's just two weeks since their 2019/20 campaign ended with that disappointing Champions Cup quarter-final loss to Saracens. Now here they go again.

His big takeaway from that loss was the importance of momentum against a side that good. Leinster duffed the opening kick-off and spent the rest of the first-half on the back foot. They were 22-3 down at the break and scrambling to stand still.

It's not a loss they have dwelt on for long. Not as a collective, in any case.

We’ve had to turn a page pretty quickly, we’re into 2020-2021 straight away. We hadn’t much time.

"We had an 'A' game the following week and there was a number of guys who played in that. So it was pretty much turning a page and getting into another game right away.

“We couldn’t feel sorry for ourselves too long, it’s upon us already a new season. If you sit around feeling sorry for yourself you’re not going to perform at your peak for the games coming up. It’s very important for us now to turn a page into the new season.”

It's a scenario they have war-gamed for months now, ever since the last season was stopped in its tracks and the games started to pile up in the depot. The pre-season was banked months ago and every man jack of them insists they are ready and eager to go again.

If they are then they are part of the minority, at least in league terms. Rugby's focus lies elsewhere and will do for some time. There is a Champions Cup final to be played and a plethora of test fixtures to be ticked off the list between this and early December.

PRO14 organisers have shifted their schedules to avoid the big international fixtures but the prospect of a home game against the Dragons at an empty RDS doesn't set the pulse racing, especially so in the wake of that huge letdown against Sarries.

“Look, there is no shortage of motivation in this building, I can guarantee you that,” said the scrum-half.

Obviously, off the back of a very disappointing defeat, there is a lot of individual performances there that could have been a lot better.

“So there are guys who are very keen to get back on the pitch and show what we can do as a collective. As far as the no fans things, we’re very used to it, we’re attuned to it now. All the preparation, we’re used to that stuff.

“It’s very exciting for us to look forward to Friday and put out a solid performance.”

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