RUGBY: Jono Gibbes vows to leave Ulster on good footing
Head coach Jono Gibbes will do his best with the coaching staff to see Ulster secure a European Champions Cup place next season and a Guinness PRO14 play-off spot before he leaves.
The New Zealander dropped a bombshell yesterday when he announced he was leaving at the end of the season due to family reasons.
The 41-year-old had just a month ago taken over heading up the coaching team at Kingspan Stadium following the departure of director of rugby, Les Kiss, by mutual consent.
Gibbes, who previously coached at Leinster, was brought in by Kiss from French Top 14 side Clermont at the start of the season, will return home to New Zealand one-year into a two-year contract.
Given Ulster’s inconsistent season, which inevitably led to Kiss’s departure a month ago and Gibbes being linked to a coaching role with the Australia National side - which Gibbes has said is ‘fake news’ - the timing of his decision could not have come at a worst time for a rugby organisation which looks in a shambles.
Speaking to the News Letter on Friday night, Gibbes said his decision was certainly not a career one, it was a decision of necessity due to family reasons and he needed to be back in New Zealand.
Gibbes also admitted that he had a family to support and would need to find employment, but any further job he would have was as a result of him being back home not because of his decision to leave Ulster.
Gibbes admitted it was a difficult decision because he was looking forward to being a part of change in the organisation.
He said: “Professionally while it is a difficult period for Ulster at the moment, you can shape your course, build on things that sort of clarify what really needs to be done and get on with it.
“That is the period which is coming up and I would have really liked to have been a part of that and help shape and influence.
“Ulster have had a good run of things as in they have been in a highly successful period albeit they keep running into Leinster in play-off games or finals.
“But it has been a great period , and there have been some really positives things
No rugby organisation has a right to just have a smooth sailing ship and there are periods of difficult times.
“The All Blacks experienced it in 2007, a massively difficult time, and it was not so long ago there were challenges for the other Provinces. It is normal.
“Certainly it is not comfortable, it is not enjoyable and it is certainly frustrating for our people,
“For me what I can see is the opportunity to focus on what is really important, what is critical in the next 18 months to three years.
“It is not a quick fix and to get anything of substance or endurance, it does take a bit of time. You need to have things in place and you have to beat them in.”
Gibbes was supportive of the supporters as well, even if they had been outspoken recently.
“There are passionate people across the Province as a whole and that passion gets pretty vocal, gets pretty loud and they voice it pretty publicly and they let you know they are not happy.
“But that is because they care and it is one of the key things that is going for Ulster.
“When you have pationate people involved and behind it, it is uncomfortable when you are under the microscope, it is a reality because you have a good support base.
“It is an attribute. There is a resource there and that is a real positive thing.”
In terms of the remainder of the season, Gibbes has vowed to do what he can to see Ulster finish strongly.
“Those who I work with have certainly got to make sure we do the best we can for the rest of this year,” he added. “We want to be the Champions Cup next season and play-offs this season - absolutely.”