Stuart Barnes believes Jamison Gibson Park 'best No 9 in this hemisphere' right now 1 week ago

Stuart Barnes believes Jamison Gibson Park 'best No 9 in this hemisphere' right now

A sizeable chunk of French rugby fans would wildly contest this call.

"We got the job done in the end, which is the main thing," Jamison Gibson Park reflected after his Leinster side's win over Leicester, "but there's definitely stuff to work on before next week."

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With Leinster taking a shadow squad to South Africa for two rounds of United Rugby Championship games, Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster send their top guns out to tear into Leicester Tigers from the start. It was breath-taking stuff as they raced into a 17-0 lead after only 20 minutes.

Tigers ended up making a decent fist of it, but Leinster won 23-14 to set up a home Champions Cup semi final against a Toulouse side that have dug themselves out of three consecutive holes.

While Toulouse captain Antoine Dupont was contributing to the place-kicking competition decider against Munster, that Leinster bolt from the starting gates was aided massively by their chief tempo-setter, Gibson Park. The Leinster scrumhalf's latest outing, after a strong club season and Six Nations, has Stuart Barnes giving him the highest praise possible.

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Sam Warburton Jamison Gibson Park of Leinster celebrates with teammates Jimmy O'Brien and Josh van der Flier after scoring against Connacht, at Aviva Stadium. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

Jamison Gibson Park the 'best No 9 in this hemisphere'

Since mid December, the Leinster No.9 has made seven appearances for the province, all bar a league win over Munster coming in the Champions Cup. Luke McGrath is still pushing hard, but Jamison Gibson Park is the go-to if the Blues want to grip it and rip it.

Such was the impact of his latest contribution, in Europe, that a watching Stuart Barnes was compelled to write openly about his revised scrumhalf rankings. In a piece for The Sunday Times, he wrote:

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"Stuart Lancaster, the Leinster senior coach, is being fed a diet of exceptional talent and he is doing a superb job, finishing them with a little bit of black magic; well, quite a lot actually. In Jamison Gibson Park and James Lowe, he has two of Europe’s best players.

"Scrumhalf Gibson-Park is, at present, the best No 9 in this hemisphere, with Antoine Dupont, of Toulouse, who Leinster will face in the semi-finals on Saturday, enduring the first dip of his career."

Antoine Dupont is the reigning Top 14 and Champions Cup winner, World Player of the Year, Six Nations 'Best Player' and was instrumental in France winning the Grand Slam, in March. Gibson Park has enjoyed a superb season, too, but not many are claiming - as boldly as Barnes, anyway - that he is the best 9 in Europe.

One way to add some logs to this fire is coming right up, at Lansdowne Road on Saturday afternoon.

"Toulouse are an unbelievable team," Gibson Park told BT Sport. "They went to Ireland and won, against Munster, so that shows how good they can be."

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