Why Gibson Park is no longer just a subordinate

It’s weird how regular replacement is Jamison Gibson Park suddenly became one of the most influential players in the Leinster a team that chases fifth Heineken Champions Cup title for the club this weekend. When the New Zealander arrived Ireland in 2016, he came up with the reputation of being a cover player at the Blues and the Hurricanes.

In four seasons of Super Rugby en Auckland and Wellington, the melee half started in just seven of his 40 appearancesa selection trend that continued after his arrival in Dublin when only five starts were all Gibson Park managed in 29 Champions Cup appearances during his initial five seasons at Leinster.

However, the 30-year-old no longer plays the second violin in the province Luke McGrathhis confidence flared up like never before after he was expelled Conor Murray this season as the No1 Ireland handball half and started seven of the eight Tests played in 2021/22 by Andy Farrell’s team.

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Leinster still retains a bit of a soft spot for McGrath, who has completely fallen off the Irish post-Joe Schmidt radar. For example, they started him at Connacht in the first leg round of 16 match in early April. However, Gibson-Park has been their favorite pick in the knockout phase matches since then, starting close Johnny Sexton in the return leg against Connacht and going on to be the No9 against Leicester and Toulouse.

In total, Gibson-Park has won four tries in its seven European appearances this period with Leinster, a strike rate consistent with its Test Level achievements of three tries in seven recent Irish outings. The big mystery, however, is why such an influential player in 2021/22 took so long to realize his potential in a slowly burning career where he seemed destined to be just a safety midfielder, not necessarily a select beginner. .

Brian O’Driscoll watched the transformation with great interest, suggesting that Gibson-Park’s energy levels are incredible. “He just enjoys the style of play that Leinster plays. It suits his game, it’s fast,” said the legendary midfielder, who helped his province win the Champions Cup in 2009, 2011 and 2012. RugbyPass. “No matter how much structure there is in the way he plays, the expectation when the ball is ready to go is that you move it and you don’t expect arrangements, you don’t expect pods to come into play.

Leinster is probably organizing itself a little better, a little faster than they may have done in the past. They’ve become really fluid with that but if they’re not installed and you throw the ball fast because it’s ready to go, it also means the defense doesn’t have a chance to set up and there’s a chance for guys to use their footwork and use their head to take what a picture they see before them.

“It simply came to our notice then. He has a really nice variety to his game, a box removes the pressure of Johnny Sexton many times. He’s really interested in the defenders, the first and second defenders around the ruck, pulling them out and putting forward inside, and then his league play and counterattack game, just the whole part of it is very, very good. He is also defensively strong.

“He really plays with tremendous confidence right now and is extremely fit. He looks very, very fit, he looks like he’s a guy who keeps going and going. People sometimes lose sight of how much running handball halves have to do, especially when he’s defending on the edge, which he also does, to get to every ruck. Being there through 14, 15 phases is exhausting but he never looks like a guy who has his hands on his hips, he always has high energy, high tempo. “

  • BT Sport is home to the European Rugby Champions Cup. The 2021/22 season ends this weekend with Leinster vs Stade Rochelais live on BT Sport 2 at 4pm on Saturday 28 May. Learn more about watching at BT Sport. bt.com/sport

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