Jono Gibbes spoke yesterday about his ambitions to become a head coach one day — possibly at Leinster — but not before he furthers his education as an assistant to Matt O’Connor, who will replace Joe Schmidt as top dog in the province this summer.
Gibbes confirmed he gave considerable thought to handing his CV in to Leinster chief Mick Dawson when Schmidt took up the offer to replace Ireland head coach Declan Kidney, but decided against on the basis of counsel sought.
“I felt that I’m still a young coach and could learn something off [O’Connor] as well. So, yeah, my ambition is to progress as high as I can as a coach. Whether that’s head coach or not in club or Test rugby, timing-wise it wasn’t this time right now.”
Gibbes’ candidacy will be difficult to ignore when he does decide the time is right to follow in the footsteps of Schmidt and O’Connor and seek promotion from lieutenant to general, given the calibre of men with whom he has worked.
Aside from Schmidt, the former All Black has so far served under John Mitchell, Warren Gatland, Steve Hansen and Michael Cheika. It was Cheika who brought him to Leinster and he is the only staff member to have featured in all three of the province’s Heineken Cup successes.
It was no surprise then that his name was mentioned in dispatches as a possible forwards coach when Schmidt accepted an improved contract with the IRFU, but Gibbes has a year left on his Leinster deal and intends seeing that out. “It would be a massive honour to coach at [Test] level but my situation is with Leinster. I feel very comfortable here and hungry to continue on with these guys. There are three forwards coaches in situ with Ireland at the moment. Joe will need to discuss what he is doing with them.”
It will be intriguing to see how Gibbes and the rest of the existing backroom staff fare under a new man next season and, though he spoke of his excitement at the prospect of experiencing new perspectives, he chose not to contemplate where his future might lie in 13 months’ time.
“We don’t know what the new guy might think of me,” he joked when asked if he might remain in Dublin. “I’m pretty good at making a first impression, but I don’t know what my second one will be like. He might work me out by then, plus he’s Australian.
“So, it’s hard to say. The key thing as coaches is that you’ve got to have strong relationships.
You need a bit of a thick skin as a coaching unit. It’s hard for me to say what that relationship will be like. My first impression of him was a very good one. Get used to the accent and, yeah, we’ll see in a year’s time really.”
Gibbes and Leinster take on Glasgow Warriors in a RaboDirect Pro12 play-off tomorrow at the RDS buoyed by the expected return of Jamie Heaslip who missed last week’s defeat of Ospreys with a leg injury.
Rob Kearney, Jonathan Sexton and Sean O’Brien are also fit, although Dave Kearney will be given another week to recover from the head injury suffered in Limerick, despite passing all the required return-to-play protocols.
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