Jimmy Gopperth focused on Leinster despite summer move to Wasps
New Zealander to replace Andy Goode at the Ricoh Arena next season, but his mind is on achieving more success in Dublin
Jimmy Gopperth insists he is focused on finishing the job with Leinster after his summer move to Wasps was confirmed.
The 31-year-old New Zealander will return to the Aviva Premiership to challenge Scotland international Ruaridh Jackson for the Wasps 10 jersey next season with incumbent Andy Goode set to move into coaching at the end of the current season.
Right now I am happy to have clarity around my situation going forward, but it is now about Cardiff on Saturday, and a huge few weeks for Leinster Rugby both domestically and in Europe.
The former Junior All Black spent four seasons in the Premiership with Newcastle Falcons from 2009 as their replacement for Toulon-bound Jonny Wilkinson, winning back-to-back Premiership Golden Boot awards in 2010 and 2011, before moving to Leinster in 2013 to succeed Johnny Sexton when he moved to Racing Metro.
With Ireland international Sexton set to return to Leinster after the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Gopperth’s move away from Dublin was widely anticipated despite helping them to the PRO12 title last season, scoring 14 points in the final against Glasgow Warriors at the RDS, but his mind is still on achieving more success with the three-time European champions after making 13 starts in 16 appearances this season.
“I have had a great time at Leinster Rugby and it has been a brilliant experience and I haven’t taken the decision lightly,” Gopperth said.
“This season is very much still on the line and we are in contention for two trophies and I am looking forward to fighting on both fronts over the coming months.
“I’ve always been very proud to pull on that jersey and to represent the supporters and no day was I more proud than last May in the RDS in the PRO12 Final against Glasgow.
“A full RDS is hard to beat and it is a day and an atmosphere that I will never forget.
“Right now I am happy to have clarity around my situation going forward, but it is now about Cardiff on Saturday, and a huge few weeks for Leinster Rugby both domestically and in Europe.
“All of my and of our focus is doing as well as we possibly can in the coming months.”
Wasps are slowly rediscovering their title-chasing edge under director of rugby Dai Young and have seen a surge in crowds since making their controversial move from High Wycombe to Coventry in December.
This was a very tough decision but at this stage in my career I think it is the right decision
Gopperth, who played against Wasps earlier this season in the European Champions Cup, admits is was a tough decision to leave the RDS.
With Sexton returning and Ian Madigan also challenging for the 10 jersey, the former Hurricanes and Blues man believes it was the right decision at this stage in his career.
“This was a very tough decision but at this stage in my career I think it is the right decision and the opportunity to play for a club like Wasps was the right one to take,” he added.
“They have a good coach in Dai Young, great structures, a new stadium and play a similar brand of rugby to Leinster.
“I’d like to thank Matt, Marco, Leo, Richie and all of the coaches during my time at Leinster for the opportunity to play in this environment and for this club with such a tradition and history.”
Leinster director of rugby Matt O’Connor admits that it disappointing to lose a player of Gopperth’s calibre, but the Australian has given his blessing to the move.
At this stage in his career, he wants to be playing consistently and regularly and the opportunity to go to a club like Wasps was too good an opportunity for him to turn down.
With the Six Nations around the corner and Madigan expected to be called up on Ireland duty by Joe Schmidt, Gopperth will reclaim the 10 jersey occupied by his fellow out-half in recent weeks.
O’Connor also expects that Gopperth will be true to his word and remain fully committed to the Blues’ cause in the final five months of the season as they look to defend their PRO12 title after a slow start to the season.
“Jimmy has been an integral part of this environment for the last 18 months or so and will be missed,” O’Connor said.
“The experience he brought to the set-up from years playing with the Hurricanes and Blues in Super Rugby and then with the Falcons, can not be underestimated and the younger players like Ian [Madigan] and to a greater extent [Leinster Academy players] Cathal [Marsh], Steve [Crosbie] and Ross [Byrne] learned a great deal from him.
“We are disappointed to lose a player of his calibre and experience but we understand his reasoning.
“At this stage in his career, he wants to be playing consistently and regularly and the opportunity to go to a club like Wasps was too good an opportunity for him to turn down.
“Jimmy and I have spoken and true to his nature and his professionalism you can be sure that we will get the same level of commitment and application that we have always received from Jimmy.
“He still has a huge role to play for Leinster Rugby this season.”