Gibson vows to prove London Irish's doubters wrongBy Alan Manicom
August 31, 2012
Jamie Gibson is looking forward to silencing the critics who have written off London Irish before the season has even started.
Most experts are predicting a bumpy ride for Exiles as they begin their Aviva Premiership campaign against highly-fancied Saracens in the London Double Header tomorrow.
But Gibson insists Irish are up for the challenge following a summer exodus which has seen the high-profile departures of top players Delon Armitage, Nick Kennedy and Dan Bowden among others as well as coaches Toby Booth, Mike Catt and Neal Hatley.
Gibson said: “With all the changes we have had here – the press and Sky Sports are predicting us to finish ninth, 10th or 11th. But among ourselves we are quietly confident.
“Winning the JP Morgan Premiership 7s was a big boost, especially the way we won it by coming back from 23 points down in the final to beat a good Gloucester team.
“We showed a lot of spirit there and in winning 34-10 against Munster in our final pre-season game last Friday.
“We are confident we can shock a few people against Saracens,” added Irish’s highly rated back-row forward.
Gibson is one of four top youngsters going into the final year of their contracts.
And if Irish are to improve on last season’s seventh place, much will be expected of him, Matt Garvey and young England internationals Alex Corbisiero and Jonathan Joseph.
Gibson believes that a good campaign would go a long way towards the club retaining their young stars.
He said: “A lot of us want to stay. We’ve had 10 or 12 of us who have come up through the academy and this is an environment we are comfortable in and like.
"If we can do well the team is only going to get stronger.
“There are a lot of us with one year left. But I haven’t really thought about that. It’s all about this season. If we can do really well – and we have a stronger squad than we have had for a couple of years – we can build something for the future.”
Gibson’s excellent displays for Irish have seen him progress quickly through the international ranks from playing for England Under-18s and Under-20s, then the Saxons before going on tour with the senior squad to South Africa this summer and playing in the midweek games.
Now he is desperate to win his first full international cap, saying: “It was a good experience and I came away knowing exactly what I want to do.
“There are three or four things that I want to tick off.
“For example not just tackling but being a tackle jackal, which for my position is vital.
“I came back from South Africa more motivated than I’ve ever been.
“I am only 21 but I’m one of the more experienced London Irish players in the squad so I have more involvement here now.”
That has meant taking a break from studying classics at Oxford University to give rugby his full-time attention.
And he has yet to decide how he will complete the final year and a half of his four-year course.
The only thing on his mind tomorrow, though, will be his battle with the Saracens back row.
He said: “I’ve played with Jackson Wray all through the age groups from 18s upwards.
"Ernst Joubert is brilliant at what he does and, if Kelly Brown is fit, he is a very good player.
"They missed him a lot when he was injured last season.”
Gibson, though, has the brains and brawn to come out on top.