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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Michael Scully

Jamison Gibson-Park on Johnny Sexton's batman mask and Ross Byrne's resurgence

Jamison Gibson-Park is clear on why Ross Byrne is back with a bang at Test level - while revealing Johnny Sexton is withstanding bangs thanks to his batman mask.

Discarded by Ireland after the 2021 Six Nations, Byrne answered Andy Farrell's call with ice in his veins in the final Autumn series game last November with the winning penalty against Australia.

Now he is in Farrell's Six Nations squad at Joey Carbery's expense and Gibson-Park, who for a long time was part of Leinster's back-up half-back partnership with Byrne, believes Byrne's return is wholly deserved.

"For Rossy, something he probably always had was his game management and his game leadership," said the scrum-half, who himself has become Farrell and Leinster's go-to starter in the no 9 jersey.

"But I think it has come on leaps and bounds again from what he was.

"He's a pretty good natural leader, but that has certainly been an area of his game that he has worked on.

"And then there's his basics, we know he has an excellent kicking game and all that sort of stuff, so yeah, it's been good to see and he's been good to work with."

Still, Gibson-Park is expected to line up alongside Johnny Sexton as Ireland's half-backs in Cardiff on Saturday, their dynamic partnership adding an exhilarating edge to the attack.

Sexton is recovering from cheekbone surgery but has been in the thick of it during the warm weather camp in Quinta do Lago.

"He's still training well and moving well, he always does," said Gibson-Park, before smiling: "I think he copped a whack in the face during training but he had the batman mask on so he's all good.

"He's going well."

The 30-year-old sees a big similarity in how Sexton and Byrne go about their business.

"Yeah, pretty similar I suppose in the way they see the game and they're brilliant players, they have a great ability to scan and to make decisions," said Gibson-Park.

"So they're both obviously key figures for Leinster and Ross plays a lot of rugby there - they bounce ideas off each other, compete with each other.

"All those things make them better players, I think."

There was a sliding doors moment for Byrne when both he and Joey Carbery were vying for position behind Sexton at Leinster, but it was Carbery who made the move to Munster for more game time.

Byrne, for his part, stayed and has learned so much alongside his captain.

"Yeah, for sure," agreed Gibson-Park. "It's been massive for him, I would say.

"I think to that point as well, they've had some pretty awesome coaches over the years to try to bring their games on.

"He's certainly improved and there's plenty more to come as well."

Gibson-Park was on message yesterday when, echoing the thoughts of several of his team-mates, he spoke of wanting to win his first Six Nations title.

"You look ahead to the weekend and a match like that at the Principality and it's a pretty massive challenge, isn't it," he said.

"Stuff like that probably excites me the most, those big challenges. In terms of growth, it's been pretty massive from the team and a few individuals as well."


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