Wasps director of rugby Dai Young is celebrating the capture of Leinster fly-half Jimmy Gopperth for next season, believing the English side will be getting one of the best kickers in Europe.
New Zealander Gopperth, 31, saw his exit from the Irish province confirmed yesterday as he sealed a return to England having joined Leinster from Newcastle Falcons in the summer of 2013. His move to the RDS coincided with the departure of Ireland out-half Johnny Sexton to Racing Metro.
Gopperth had vied with homegrown Ian Madigan for the Leinster number 10 jersey under head coach Matt O’Connor.
The much-heralded return of Sexton to his native province for next season has seen Gopperth rather than Madigan head for the Leinster exit, however, and as far as Young is concerned, their loss is Wasps’ gain.
“Jimmy’s consistency of performance at the highest level is really impressive,” the Wasps director of rugby said.
“He is one of the most accurate kickers in northern hemisphere rugby, and we also expect him to develop a dangerous attacking partnership in our back line over the next couple of seasons.”
Gopperth has to date made 31 starts for Leinster and 45 appearances in total, scoring 280 points, helping O’Connor’s men win the PRO12 title with a final victory over Ulster in Dublin last May having finished top of the regular season table in the Australian coach’s debut season.
His dominance of the fly-half position has continued into this campaign, starting 13 times in all competitions, and O’Connor paid tribute to Gopperth’s influence on the Leinster squad.
“Jimmy has been an integral part of this environment for the last 18 months or so and will be missed,” the Leinster boss said. “The experience he brought to the set-up from years playing with the Hurricanes and Blues in Super Rugby and then with the Falcons, can not be underestimated and the younger players like Ian (Madigan) and to a greater extent Cathal (Marsh), Steve (Crosbie) and Ross (Byrne) learned a great deal from him.
“We are disappointed to lose a player of his calibre and experience but we understand his reasoning. At this stage in his career, he wants to be playing consistently and regularly and the opportunity to go to a club like Wasps was too good an opportunity for him to turn down.”
Gopperth promised to continue to give his total commitment to the Leinster cause, saying: “It has been a brilliant experience and I haven’t taken the decision lightly. This season is very much still on the line and we are in contention for two trophies and I am looking forward to fighting on both fronts over the coming months.
“This was a very tough decision but at this stage in my career I think it is the right decision and the opportunity to play for a club like Wasps was the right one to take.”
Gopperth’s move to London has already prompted a rejig at Wasps with veteran fly-half Andy Good being offered a coaching role with the club next season.
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