Wednesday 22 November 2017

Gibson-Park set to challenge McGrath as Ulster lose Olding

Leinster’s scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park
Leinster’s scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park

Jamison Gibson-Park did not come to Leinster to do what he did at the Hurricanes.

There is only so long you can spend as an understudy until you are undervalued.

In New Zealand, he had to wait his turn behind TJ Perenara, a quick-thinking half-back The Lions may have to control.

In Leinster, he has had to to do the same in behind Luke McGrath.

He would never concede to accepting his fate is to wait,

"It's hard to say. It can be disappointing week to week," said Gibson-Park about the sense of déjà vu.

"You obviously want to be starting those matches, but it's the nature of the beast.

"You have to stay on board because we've all got a role to play.

"If I'm coming off the bench to try and close out those games, so be it.

"I wouldn't like to think I was giving it to him easy, but it is good to have that competition in the squad."

The Irish system is built on promotion from within four provincial walls.

With Ruan Pienaar an automatic choice at Ulster, it leaves just three men for two green shirts.

This explains why McGrath was given first shot this season and the growing authority in his game has led to a taste of the captaincy and the Players' Player of the Year accolade last Saturday night.

"I would like to think that the coaching staff would pick on form," stated Gibson-Park.

"If you're going out there and performing every week, then you should get a shot at the jersey.

"I'd like to think that we are putting pressure on each other for the jersey.

"It's very healthy to have that within the group."

The accelerated learning in a different environment, on a different continent, was accompanied by the intense pain of losing out to Clermont-Auvergne in Lyon.

"There's no doubt about it, it hurts, but it gives you a burning desire to want to be there again and, hopefully, get the result that time.

"We're generally pretty young and to have that experience so early on in their career, some of the guys like Joey Carbery and Garry Ringrose, it's going to be massive for them moving forward and for Leinster as a whole."


The next challenge on the schedule is to go up the road to The Kingspan and do to Ulster what they did to Leinster there in the League last year.

The Northern Province will struggle for continuity near the end of a season without hope.

Stuart Olding is unlikely to make Ireland's summer tour due to a significant left ankle injury.

The inside centre saw a specialist yesterday to investigate the best course of action.

Scrum-half Pienaar (back spasm), wing Charles Piutau (elbow), flanker Chris Henry (calf) and centre Stuart McCloskey (thigh haematoma) are all up against the clock.

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