Tomorrow, Aviva Premiership player of the year, Jimmy Gopperth, will be running out on to the lush grass of Twickenham, alongside his Wasps team mates, as they take on Exeter in Aviva Premiership final.
This guy has been in serene form this year and is a product Coastal Rugby Club in New Zealand, which was home to stars such as Beauden Barratt and even E4R’s Director, Carl Hayman – not a bad rugby club then…
Thanks to Jimmy for taking the time to answer our questions and we wish him all the best in the final tomorrow!
How would you evaluate your season…so far?
It’s been a really enjoyable season. The team have played unbelievably together, which is why it’s been so much fun – that’s the reason you play rugby isn’t it? To have fun with your team mates and enjoy success together!
My individual performances, and accolades, are a direct result of being involved in an extremely talented Wasps team; so yeah, great season on the whole. A win tomorrow would top it all off nicely.
The season isn’t quite over yet, with the small matter of the Aviva Premiership final still to be played tomorrow – what’s the mood in the camp?
We’re all extremely excited about the final! Finishing top of the league and making the final was our goals at the start of the season. Now we just can’t wait to get out on the pitch and go for that silverware.
I hear it’s basically a sell-out, so playing in front of a packed Twickenham crowd is going to be pretty special. Hopefully we can do enough and bring the trophy home.
I have to ask, what’s this about your dad only flying over if you played in tow fixtures?
Haha, yes my dad travelled over to watch my semi-final, however he said that if he was flying all that way, he’d expect to watch the final too…with me in it. My mum landed in London yesterday and I have some neighbours over to watch me play too. It’s really great to get support from people back home!
No pressure then…Haha! So, how does playing in England compare with playing back in New Zealand?
One huge difference for me are the crowds. Back home, the stands are full but it’s rather quiet – New Zealanders are very analytical when they watch rugby – they could tell you every rule in the book and probably name ever player on the field – but they prefer to really focus on the rugby instead of the theatre.
In England, it’s totally different; every game brings a noisy crowd and an incredible atmosphere – the passion is unreal! I’ve had mates come over and play and they’ve been genuinely blown away by the experience. Over here the fans love to make a day of it, have a good old sing-song and get on the beers – it really highlights the social aspect of the game.
Right, the question that was always going to come; what’s your views on this Lions squad…can they win the series?
Well, let me start by saying the standard of the rugby in the Northern Hemisphere has massively improved in the last few years and teams are playing a much more expansive game, which includes brilliant, attacking rugby. Loving it!
In my opinion, the Lions have to go out there and play attacking rugby against the All Blacks. If they try and muscle up against them, they’ll end up tiring and New Zealand will run rings round them. We’ve seen Wales try it numerous times and it’s never worked – you have to play New Zealand at their own game.
I must add that Billy Vunipola is a huge loss but the lads have to forget about it and work with who they’ve got. The All Blacks have injury worries of their own but they’ll just get on with the job at hand.
OK let’s rewind a little bit…what’s your earliest memories of playing the game?
Playing bare foot on a frosty morning, having to chase sheep off the pitch before we could get going. Bloody freezing feet but great memories – we just loved playing the game.
You’re from the same town as Carl Hayman…How was the rugby in Opunake and who was your first club?
My first club was Opunake, which then amalgamated to form a club called Coastal. It’s a brilliant club that really endorses the family aspect of rugby and has a huge community feel to it. My late grandfather, and grandmother, were and are heavily involved in the club, so even though I may not be able to support Coastal from the side-lines, I’ve had involvement through them. My dad still heads along to support the club and I have a number of family members who play for them, so the Gopperth tradition continues at the club!
How important are rugby’s grassroots?
Grassroots rugby is huge. It’s where it all starts and in my opinion, it’s the most important area of the game. More so than the professional game, as remember all top rugby players started off at a grassroots club. It’s essential that amateur rugby clubs continue to flourish so that we have a game…it encompasses everything that rugby is about.
I love that so many professional players have identified this and go back to their roots to give something back to the clubs that gave them a platform the flourish.
Thanks so much for your time Jimmy, and once again, all the best tomorrow!