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'The Irish go a little too far' - Gibson-Park impresses French, to a point

By Ian Cameron
Jamison Gibson-Park of Leinster celebrates winning a penalty with teammates Dan Sheehan and Andrew Porter during the Investec Champions Cup quarter-final match between Leinster and La Rochelle at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The French rugby press has lauded Ireland scrumhalf Jamieson Gibson-Park for his standout performances in Leinster’s recent Champions Cup victories over Leicester and La Rochelle – but warn against comparisons with the undisputed darling of Gallic rugby.

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While acknowledging Gibson-Park’s impact on the field – one writer hailing him as ‘the new boss of Leinster’ – they caution ‘the Irish’ against hyperbolic comparisons with France superstar Antoine Dupont. It’s simply a step too far.

The New Zealand-born scrum-half has indeed been pivotal in driving Leinster following the retirement of Johnny Sexton, adopting a halfback role more akin to the petit general role favoured by the French.

Nonetheless, French commentators suggest that equating Gibson-Park’s contributions to those of Dupont – widely regarded as one of the world’s best players in any position – might be an exaggeration. Sure, they respect Gibson-Park’s abilities; however, they insist clear distinction must be made between the 32-year-old and their messianic talisman.

“The Irish are surely going a little far when they consider Jamison Gibson-Park as the equal of Antoine Dupont,” wrote Midi Olympique Vincent Bissonnet. “We obviously won’t follow them to the end of their thoughts… However, we won’t push bad faith so far as to refuse to admit that Gibson-Park was excellent on the Aviva pitch, winning his duel against his compatriot Kerr-Barlow…”

Ruck Speed

0-3 secs
49%
47%
3-6 secs
29%
35%
6+ secs
17%
9%
83
Rucks Won
84

The comparison has been made recently in the press, but it wasn’t an Irishman. Retired Wales captain Sam Warburton said of Gibson Park: “If Antoine Dupont wasn’t on this planet, then we’d be saying this guy’s the best No9 in the world by a mile.”

Gibson-Park has held the upper hand over Dupont in recent duels – or at least teams he’s been playing for have. Be it at Test level for Ireland against France or at club level against Toulouse for Leinster, the Great Barrier Island native has won his last four outings against Dupont.

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The pair could yet meet again in a Champions Cup final, should Leinster best Northampton at Croke Park and Toulouse make it past the tricky assignment of Harlequins. It’s one hell of a subplot.

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Abe 3 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

Not a fan of your picks. McReight is good at club level but he is too small for international level and has consistently disappointed there. Better to go for larger guys. Kemeney, Valentini, Hooper, Leota, Samu, Swinton, etc. Aalatoa and Nonga are woeful scrummagers and don’t offer much around the field. Wallabies will not win if the scrum falls to pieces. The fact that Faamissli hasn’t been developed is a tragedy. Need a scrum that doesn’t give away penalties. So looks like a Talakai maybe instead. Best scrummagers need to be selected. McDermott runs the ball too much and doesn’t fit into a structured attack like Schmidts. Gets isolated too often. Ok off the bench late but not for 60 mins. Goal kicking has to be one of the top 3 points for a 10 so that does in Gordon and O’Connor. Be better off going for lynagh on that front. Donaldson and Noah seem to be doing best of the established names. QC a better mentor type guy than OConnor as well if he’s playing. Daugunu has been the most consistent 13 and breaks the line a lot so must be in the squad. Joost has also been good. Richie Arnold playing well for Toulouse and is a preeminent lineout jumper so needs to be in. Latu also playing well for La Rochelle and is better scrummager than the Aussie choices so should be in. The big guy at the Tahs Amataroso I think it is needs to be developed as well. Otherwise the team will be too small. Hodge is a better choice at fullback than Wright. Latter makes too many mistakes. Not sure if Hodge available.

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Turlough 7 hours ago
Four Leinster talking points after latest Champions Cup final loss

First of all: hats off to Toulouse an outstanding performance. Duponts kicking was phenomenal. Twice he challenged Keenan with amazing clearances from his 22 in extra time. Result was territory deep in Leinster half in the early part of extra time which lead to 2 penalties and the game. Remember also his two 50:22s? Now to Willis/Dupont. ANY slight isolation by a Leinster player resulted in a turnover penalty. How many turnovers in the Toulouse 22? Leinster’s defense was immense, they had opportunities in attack but they honestly looked like they had not spent enough time passing the ball in the training in the weeks preceding the final. Game management was poor. Toulouse’s scrum had crumbled. At 15-15 Leinster had a scrum advantage in a position that would be kickable for a scrum penalty. Leinster played on and missed a long range drop goal. You MUST take the scrum surely? Win penalty and its a shot at goal to win with time up. No penalty and you can attack and drop goal whatever. The distance from sideline penalties from Byrne was shocking. If you are kicking the line you must get close to that 5 metre line. How many times were Leinster forced to maul from 10-15 metres? Toulouse KNEW Leinster was going to kick and maul and clearly spent considerable training time neutralizing thuis threat. The maul was starting too far out, Toulouse were able to stop the heart of the drive. You must change tack and start kicking for goals. That said it always felt like Toulouse were the potent team on the day with Leinster under pressure and chasing. Even with their backline completely disrupted, Toulouse found a way. 9 Wins in their last 9 finals. Leinster will be there next year. But so will Toulouse/Northhampton etc. A great era of club rugby.

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