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Gibson-Park to play for Ireland


The next two weeks could be the biggest of new Ireland halfback Jamison Gibson-Park’s rugby life.

The 28-year-old halfback of Ngati Porou and Ngai Tai descent has been selected to represent the Emerald Isle in the autumn internationals.

Gibson-Park attended Ilminster Intermediate School and Gisborne Boys’ High School and played for Poverty Bay at under-13 and u16 level. He represented the Hurricanes Schools side in 2010, made his first-class debut for Taranaki in 2012 and played 34 games for Taranaki over a three-year period.

He scored three tries in eight appearances for the Maori All Blacks between 2012 and 2015 and turned out for both the Blues (30 caps) and the Hurricanes (13) before leaving these shores for Irish club Leinster in August 2016.

“I’m very grateful for my rugby journey as it has taken me to many places and I’ve made a lot of lifelong friends,” the Great Barrier Island-born Gibson-Park said.

“Former Gisborne Boys’ High School first 15 coaches Tom Cairns and Les Barbara were big influences on me through school, and then Mike Collins — the Taranaki academy manager at the time — got me to New Plymouth.

“Colin Cooper I’m grateful to also, for giving me my first crack at professional footy, as I didn’t decide it could be a career for me until my last year of school.

“My family have been incredible for me: my kids, my partner Patti, my parents and grandparents are always my greatest inspiration.”

Gibson-Park and his family — including Isabella, 5, and Iris, 1 — have been based in Dublin for the past four years.

Gibson-Park has 95 caps and has scored 16 tries for the historic Leinster club. Founded in 1879, the club has won two from two to date in the Pro 14 this season and Gibson-Park is one of 16 Leinster men in the 35-man squad to play Ireland’s last two Six Nations tests — against Italy at Aviva Stadium in Dublin a week from Saturday and against Les Bleus in a night game at the Stade de France a week after that.

Today the Irish went into camp in Dublin under head coach and former dual code international Andy Farrell. They will stay together for two weeks, then take a break before hosting Group B opponents Wales in a night game to open their Autumn Nations Cup campaign on November 13.

They then face England at “HQ”, Twickenham, before hosting Georgia in Dublin on November 29 and unknown opponents on December 5, finals weekend.

Jason Holland, Hurricanes backs coach to Chris Boyd in 2016 and head coach since 2020, said Gibson-Park “could do everything”.

“Whatever sport or game he played, Jam was massively skilled and competitive,” Holland said.

“We were keen to get him back from Leinster in 2018 but he was happy where he was.

“He had the core skills. He was gutsy in the tackle, incredibly fit and he was everywhere.

“Jamo’s rugby-smart: he knows the game and he has a great sense of humour. The boys here, they all loved him and we’re delighted for him.”

Former Gisborne Boys’ High School forward Blade Thomson of Welsh club Scarlets, twice capped for Scotland (and who, like Gibson-Park, played for Taranaki, the Hurricanes and the Maori All Blacks), is delighted for his former teammate.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said the 6ft 6in Scarlets utility forward.

“He’s been on this side over the world for a wee while now, and to see him get an opportunity to play international rugby is outstanding. He’s done the work and waited patiently for his chance. He and his family should be proud.”

Former Hurricanes, Chiefs and Maori All Blacks head coach Colin Cooper has fond memories of Gibson-Park and company.

“Jamison was quiet but cheeky — a team person — great to coach, because he could both run and kick so well. He and Blade played together for Tukapa in Taranaki club rugby, Taranaki and the Maori, and they formed a great combination. Blade would pick and go, and Jam would run in support.

“Together, they were devastating.”

Gibson-Park is on contract for two more years with Leinster, and has thrived in his time with the side.

“I’ve played some decent footy of late and so hoped to make the squad,” he said.

“My family and I love the place and the people: they’ve been very good to us. I still enjoy going into work every day and working hard, having a laugh; the Irish have to be some of the funniest people around.

“I love that Leinster have given me and my family the opportunity to travel, live on the other side of the world and now play international rugby.”

RUGBY JOURNEY: Jamison Gibson-Park rises through the ranks . . . above, playing for Country South against Country North at under-13 level in 2005.
Jamison Gibson-Park playing for Gisborne Boys’ High School against old rivals Napier Boys’ High School in 2009. Gisborne Herald file picture
Jamison Gibson-Park on the burst for the Blues against the Bulls in Super Rugby at Eden Park, Auckland, in May 2015. The following year, Gibson-Park was on his way to Leinster, and ultimately a place in the Ireland rugby squad. NZ Herald file picture