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Clermont sack Jonno Gibbes mid-season

By Ian Cameron
Gibbes during his time as forwards coach with Clermont

ASM Clermont Auvergne have taken the decision to sack head coach Jonno Gibbes mid-season, it has been confirmed.

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Club president Jean-Michel Guillon made the decision after what’s been a poor season for the one-time giants of French rugby.

The New Zealander joined the club after departing his position as La Rochelle director of rugby in 2021, his role going to Ronan O’Gara. However results have not gone the way that Clermont were expecting.

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In the Heineken Champions Cup, they have lost two of their three games, the most recent being Friday’s 44-29 home defeat against Leicester Tigers. They presently hold the tenth spot in the Top 14 with only six victories from fifteen games.

A statement from the club reads: “Faced with recurring difficulties in terms of the game played and the club’s ranking in the TOP 14 and in the Champions Cup, the President of ASM took the decision to put an end to the functions of Jono Gibbes at the head of the team. This choice of change is part of a context where the ambitions still displayed by the club require to take new directions.

“This decision is effective immediately, which implies that Jono Gibbes will not be traveling to South Africa for next Saturday’s game against the Stormers. The current members of the sports staff will be responsible for managing this week of preparation.

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“As far as the future is concerned, decisions will be announced quickly in order to ensure the continuity of the sports project, and to restore a positive dynamic to the whole club, its partners and its supporters.”

Speaking at a press conference following the news, Guillon described it as the most difficult decision he’d ever made.

“We are at an important moment in the history of the club. Jono was a personal trainer for me. He was the first person I went to look for in La Rochelle and beyond the connection that there can be between a trainer and a president, there was between us a relationship of men and trust.

“I’ve had a fairly full professional life, it’s probably the most difficult decision I’ve had to make in my career! It is not just the sidelining of his coaching duties, it is also a personal relationship that must be taken into account.”

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Guillon says that a turnaround in results was needed in December, but ultimately more losses put pay to Gibbes staying on in the role.

“In our press release we were quite clear and we had been quite clear with Jono when we established, together, the club’s ambitions for this year and the following ones.

“We could not be satisfied with being like the previous year in the middle of the table, this poses a certain number of requirements for everyone, for the players, for the coach and also for the president. This ambition being posed, we do not find in December with Jono by saying that the month of December will be key!”

“Very clearly, together we are targeting a certain number of matches, Brive Toulouse… From there, we discuss with Jono in complete confidence with the desire to see a “before and after” because our performance is at what we want. The matches that followed: Perpignan and Leicester did not bring us the desired answers.

“I take responsibility for the decision I made to remove responsibility for the team from Jono Gibbes because I assumed that our ability to react could not be done in the short time we have left to react. One can always wonder whether it is fair or unfair.

“At this level it is often the coach who is at the center of discussions. I can tell you that I saw the players this morning and the message I sent was that everyone at the club must question themselves. This questioning, I live it myself every day and I am ready to assume it according to the ambitions that I displayed at the start of the season. But the staff and the players must also question themselves and assume their responsibilities, starting this week in Cape Town.”

Former British & Irish Lions fullback Jared Payne will takeover as interim head coach as they club look for their next head coach.

“Jared Payne will be the head coach for this game. That said, we want, in the coming days, to be able to present the new coach of ASM Clermont Auvergne. I am not in front of you with a name, Jono deserves better than that for everything he has brought to the club since his arrival.”

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