Ulster have landed a major coup in attracting former All Black international Jono Gibbes to Kingspan Stadium as head coach ahead of the 2017-18 season.
The Irish Province confirmed on Monday morning that Gibbes, currently forwards coach at French side Clermont Auvergne, had signed a two-year deal
The New Zealander revealed that the recent meetings between the French side and Ulster in the European Champions Cup pool stages gave him an insight into the strength of the squad.
“It is exciting to think I will be part of that environment from next season.”
Gibbes is contracted to Clermont until the end of the 2018 season but there was a release clause allowing him to leave early if the opportunity of a head coach position came up elsewhere.
Gibbes is no stranger to Irish shores having been forwards coach at Leinster for six years from 2008-2014.
During his time there Leinster won three Heineken Cup titles. The first of those successes came under the stewardship of now Australian National coach Michael Cheika in 2009, before he assisted Joe Schmidt in the 2011 and 2012 triumphs.
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.
In addition to his expertise in forward play, the 40-year-old has also gained valuable experience in coaching other aspects of the game, such as attack, during his stints at Leinster and Clermont.
Gibbes said that there were many contributing factors in his move back to Ireland:
“The respect that I have for Le (Kiss)s, as a coach and as a person, was one of my main reasons for making this decision. He really sold his vision of where he wants to take Ulster over the next few years.
“Ulster is a team that I know well, having come up against them on a number of occasions. 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.
“With six years at Leinster and three years at Clermont in the Top 14, I’ve been afforded many different experiences, working with some very talented coaches and players. I hope to apply what I’ve learned to the role at Ulster and my family and I are looking forward to integrating into a strong community in Belfast.”
Ulster Director of Rugby Kiss added: “Jono’s CV speaks for itself and I know that he’s looking forward to joining Ulster and working with the team.
“ Jono has vast experience on both the playing and coaching fronts, having worked in many different environments such as Super Rugby, PRO12, the French Top 14 and European competitions.
“Since his retirement from playing, Jono has had an integral role in the coaching teams of two of European rugby’s most successful sides. He was a key part of the Leinster set-up that won three Heineken Cups in four years and he has continued to be hugely successful during his time in France.
“Jono’s expertise as a Forwards Coach is obvious, however his wealth of knowledge in other areas of the game will be really important for us.”
“A review of the coaching structure is ongoing ahead of next season and the appointment of Jono as Head Coach is the first part of that process. A further announcement will be made in the coming weeks, which will focus on getting the right balance in our coaching team.”
Gibbes’ move to Ulster confirms much speculation recently that the contracts of current head coach, Neil Doak and assistant, Allen Clarke, are not likely to be extended beyond this season.RUGBY