Ireland scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park is determined to make the most of his maiden World Cup following his unconventional late rise to Test-level rugby.
New Zealand-born star Gibson-Park was barely on the international radar at the time of the 2019 tournament in Japan, having only just qualified for his adopted nation on residency grounds.
The 31-year-old Leinster player, who represented the Maori All Blacks eight times between 2012 and 2015, had to wait a further year to be handed his debut by head coach Andy Farrell.
He immediately set his sights on a World Cup spot and quickly surpassed Conor Murray as Ireland’s first-choice number nine.
“It will be pretty awesome to get out there and have a run,” said Gibson-Park.
“Obviously a bit of a late bloomer – 31 at my first World Cup. It’s the pinnacle of rugby and you like to test yourself in the toughest environments. I’m looking forward to it.
“As soon as I was in the squad (I was thinking about the World Cup). As a player it’s always something you’re going to target.”
Gibson-Park gained traction on social media this week by landing an audacious basketball shot from the roof of the team hotel, which was recorded and posted by team-mate Mack Hansen.
Asked how many takes it took, he replied: “The first one, obviously!
“We were there for a while, to be fair. Just messing on Sunday, trying to come up with stuff to do in the hotel and stay out of the heat. A bit of craic.”
Ireland begin their Pool B campaign on Saturday afternoon against Romania in Bordeaux, where Gibson-Park is expected to partner returning captain Johnny Sexton.
Veteran fly-half Sexton is poised for his first competitive appearance in almost six months, having missed Ireland’s three warm-up games through suspension on the back of a groin injury.
“He’s buzzing as you can imagine,” Gibson-Park said of his provincial team-mate.
“He’s been great. Seamlessly back into training like he always does. It will be good to see him back out there.”