La Rochelle director of rugby Jono Gibbes is to join Clermont on a three-year deal as the replacement for Franck Azema, a transfer that will see current Rochelle head coach Ronan O’Gara step up into the director role that Gibbes will vacate at the home of the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finalists and Top 14 title chasers.

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O’Gara, who has agreed terms through to 2024, will take over at the Maritime club on July 1 having initially joined them in 2019 following two Super Rugby title winning seasons as an assistant at the Crusaders. His decision to stay will now end speculation that he might join Munster sometime in the near futre.    

The Irishman, who earned his coaching stripes in France at Racing 92 after he retired from playing with Munster and Ireland in 2013, told the La Rochelle club website: “I’m extremely proud of the confidence that La Rochelle have shown in me by appointing me at the head of the group. 

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“I’m obviously very impatient to continue this adventure next season, but all in good time. We have important deadlines ahead of us and above all a good season to end in the best possible way.”

Gibbes was the New Zealander who recruited O’Gara to the club but he will now switch to Clermont, with whom he won the 2017 Top 14 title before heading to Ulster and on to La Rochelle.    

Clermont president Jean-Michel Guillon told his club’s website: “We are very happy to have found a coach of Jono’s calibre in order to guarantee our sporting ambitions in the coming seasons. He knows our club well, its players and how it works, with which he has already enjoyed success before gaining new professional experiences in Ulster and La Rochelle.

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“His high standards and professionalism, demonstrated this season through La Rochelle’s remarkable progress in both competitions, will be the basis for his assumption of office this summer. Under the search conditions imposed on us, we are very happy to have found in Jono Gibbes the person capable of embodying the ambitious future of the club in the years to come.”

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