Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster has backed Jamison Gibson-Park to continue to impress for Ireland after starting in their last two Six Nations matches.
Gibson-Park has been the second-choice scrum-half for many of the teams he has played for during his career but at the age of 29, things have started to change for the New Zealand-born Ireland international.
While he was playing for the Hurricanes in Wellington, Gibson-Park was usually playing second fiddle to All Black TJ Perenara and acted mainly as a back up to Luke McGrath when he arrived at Leinster.
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Since winning his first Ireland cap against Italy last October, the Leinster man has mostly come on as a replacement for Conor Murray, but has had the opportunity to impress in the nine shirt in recent weeks.
Change in mindset
Leinster coach Lancaster was speaking at a press conference about the scrum-half yesterday, and attributed his recent good form to a change in attitude.
“He probably came from New Zealand with that mindset, that he was always the number two, he always came on in the last 10 and never really got a start,” Lancaster said, via the Irish Mirror.
“There were big games where he has started for Leinster in the last two or three years – probably the Scarlets game stands out in my mind in the Champions Cup, he was excellent, really.
“That level of consistency he has been searching for, but it’s a lot to do with his mindset now. He believes he’s the number one and thinks he should be starting. As a consequence, he plays like that.
“So, he plays with a lot more control and composure and he’s experienced now. He has played in a lot of good environments – Super Rugby, but also here in Leinster. Now he has tasted international rugby as well.
“His last performance [against Italy] was his best. It’ll be interesting to see what they do this weekend because you certainly wouldn’t worry if he was starting again.”
‘He has stood up to the challenge’
While Gibson-Park has plenty of experience at club level, the Leinster scrum-half has been an international rugby player for less than six months, amassing eight caps in that time.
Lancaster has been impressed by his performances at test level so far, but noted that Gibson-Park has only started out on his international career.
“He’s very down to earth, Jamo, very humble and hard-working. To be an international player, you have to believe in yourself first and foremost. You have to want to go out there and play on the big stage,” Lancaster explained.
“You have to operate at the highest level and he’s stood up to that challenge. I think he’s just finding his feet.”