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Jono Gibbes' future unclear after questions about France visit

Departing Ulster head coach Jono Gibbes has defended his trip to France where he met with Top 14 side La Rochelle just three days before his side’s Champions Cup playoff.

Ulster booked their place in next year’s Champions Cup after a 32-17 playoff win over the Ospreys at Kingspan Stadium this afternoon.

Gibbes previously announced that he was returning to New Zealand for family reasons and would coach his old province Waikato at the end of the season, but traveled to France last Thursday to meet with La Rochelle and discuss their vacant head coach role.

Gibbes was asked about the impact the trip had on his side’s preparation by BBC Northern Ireland.

“The question is whether preparation was compromised,” he said.

“No, it didn’t – it was the players’ day off. The fact was that it was a bizarre game in that we had three weeks to prepare for it anyway so there wasn’t a lot of detail that needed to be covered off. It’s the players’ down day and I’ve got a life outside of Ulster as well. Was performance compromised? No, it wasn’t.”

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The BBC reporter also asked Gibbes about how his meeting with La Rochelle affects his relationship with Ulster.

“Why would you ask that, mate?,” the 41-year-old responded.

“I’ve just had a great experience working with people in a difficult year. There is no sour taste. I know you gotta ask that but I don’t know why you want to carry on like that.”

When asked about Gibbes’ potential change of heart, Waikato Rugby Union CEO Blair Foote told Fairfax earlier in the week “I had a message from Jono on Monday just concerning when he’s arriving and a start date when he’s had a chance to get over jet lag.”

“If something has changed between now and then, we don’t know about that,” Foote continued.

Gibbes was named as Waikato’s new head coach in March following the departure of Sean Botherway after a forgettable two-win season which was the side relegated to the Mitre 10 Cup Championship division.

The eight-time All Black played for Waikato 64 times between 2000 and 2007.

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Jono Gibbes' future unclear after questions about France visit | RugbyPass