Ulster are expected to announce the signing of a southern hemisphere backs coach within a week or so following the news that they have whisked former Leinster forwards supremo Jono Gibbes away from Clermont Auvergne to take over from departing head coach Neil Doak at the end of the season.
Doak was also backs coach and while Gibbes will primarily take over from current forwards architect Allen Clarke, who is also leaving Ravenhill, the former All Black will have a much wider brief under Director of Rugby Les Kiss.
Kiss has a list of contenders for which is being narrowed down weekly in regard to a backs coach and with the highly-rated Gibbes now on his way from France, it’s expected an announcement will be made soon.
Gibbes, 40, saw for himself the set-up at Ravenhill when Clermont were Ulster’s rivals in the Champions Cup this season. Following two spells as an assistant, he sees his role with Ulster as a step up the coaching ladder. He was extremely impressed with the set-up and facilities at the Kingspan Stadium and during his six-years with Leinster, had an excellent working relationship with Kiss who was formerly Ireland defence coach.
Gibbes was with Leinster from 2008 working alongside Michael Cheika before assisting Joe Schmidt in the 2011 and 2012 season helping to win three European Cups. He moved to France in 2014 and was part of a coaching set-up that guided Clermont to the Top 14 and Champions Cup finals in his debut season.
Gibbes said that there were many contributing factors in his move back to Ireland.
“The respect that I have for Les (Kiss), as a coach and as a person, was one of my main reasons for making this decision,” said Gibbes. “He really sold his vision of where he wants to take Ulster over the next few years.
“The Clermont-Ulster games this season gave me an insight into the strengths of the squad and it’s exciting to think that I’ll be part of that environment from next season. I hope to apply what I’ve learned in the past few season and bring that role at Ulster. My family and I are looking forward to integrating into a strong community in Belfast.”
Kiss was obviously delighted to get his man. “Jono’s CV speaks for itself. Since his retirement from playing, Jono has had an integral role in the coaching teams of two of European rugby’s most successful sides.”
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