Jono Gibbes to become La Rochelle director of rugby in November

Gibbes has previous experience of Top14 rugby after three seasons as forwards coach with Clermont Auvergne
Gibbes has previous experience of Top14 rugby after three seasons as forwards coach with Clermont Auvergne

Former Ulster head coach Jono Gibbes is to become director of rugby at Top 14 club La Rochelle in November.

The New Zealander has agreed a four-year contract with the French club, with whom he held initial talks in May.

Gibbes has returned to his native country for personal reasons and will honour his commitment to take charge of Waikato for a couple of months.

He spent just one season at Ulster before being granted an early release from his contract for "family reasons".

The 41-year-old was promoted to the role of head coach at Kingspan Stadium in January following the departure of director of rugby Les Kiss.

Gibbes flew to the west of France to hold talks with La Rochelle during a rest day for the Ulster squad ahead of their Champions Cup play-off win over the Ospreys on 20 May.

The former Leinster and Clermont Auvergne forwards coach had agreed to become head coach of Waikato in the Mitre Cup and will occupy that role before returning to Europe in the autumn.

La Rochelle finished outside the play-off places in the Top14 table this season and were seeking a successor to Patrice Collazo, who stepped down after seven years in charge.

"For his part, Jono Gibbes showed great interest in the Stade Rochelais project but had to go to New Zealand for family reasons, where he had committed for a few months with Waikato," read a statement on the French club's website.

"Confident in the skill of all our professional staff, with the team placed under the responsibility of Gregory Patat and Xavier Garbajosa, and convinced that Jono Gibbes has the ideal profile, the club offered that he postpone his taking a role here to enable him to solve his personal problem and honour his commitment to Waikato.

"From next November, Jono Gibbes will oversee the management of Stade Rochelais with responsibility for developing the performance of our professional team and that of our training."

La Rochelle will compete in the European Challenge Cup next season.

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