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Ulster head coach Jono Gibbes to leave at end of season

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Ulster head coach Jono Gibbes
Jono Gibbes was previously forwards coach at Leinster and Clermont Auvergne

Head coach Jono Gibbes will leave Ulster at the end of the season for “family reasons”.

The 41-year-old will return to his native New Zealand one year into a two-year contract.

Gibbes took charge of the Irish province in February 2017 after director of rugby Les Kiss’ departure.

“Being a long way from home for the last 10 years has made me prioritise things above my career,” said former New Zealand international Gibbes.

The New Zealander’s impending departure is another blow for the beleaguered Irish province whose form has tailed off badly after a promising start to the Pro14 campaign.

Jono Gibbes talks to Les Kiss earlier this season
Jono Gibbes took charge of the team on 31 January after Les Kiss’ exit

Gibbes in charge since Kiss exit on 31 January

Following Pro14 thumpings by Connacht and Leinster over the Christmas and New Year period, Ulster bowed out of the European Champions Cup in January after a heavy defeat by Wasps and Gibbes was put in charge of the team 10 days after Kiss’ exit.

However, Gibbes has now confirmed that he has made the “difficult” decision for family reasons to quit the Irish province at the end of this season.

“The challenge ahead for Ulster demands the full attention of everyone involved – the management group, the team, the coaches and support staff. It is exciting and achievable,” added Gibbes.

“However, I cannot in good conscience provide my full attention for the journey ahead.”

Gibbes had been forwards coach at Leinster and Clermont Auvergne before being recruited to join Kiss’ coaching team at Ulster.

Operations director Bryn Cunningham said he “fully understood and supported” Gibbes’ decision.

“We’d like to thank Jono for his dedication thus far and I know that he will be fully committed to us until the end of the season,” said Cunningham.

“A review of the coaching structure is ongoing and the desired outcome of this will be to provide us with a strong, well-balanced coaching team and some long-term stability.”

Ulster are third in Conference A of the Pro14 and are in danger of missing out on qualification for the play-offs and potentially a place in the Champions Cup next season.

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