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Coach Gibbes can weave his magic at Kingspan, says Ross

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Retiring Leinster and Ireland prop Mike Ross believes that Ulster have made an astute addition in recruiting Jono Gibbes to be the province's head coach for next season.

The former All Black signed a two-year deal to join Les Kiss' staff and will form a new-look coaching ticket along with former Lions scrum-half Dwayne Peel.

While his most recent gig was coaching Clermont's forwards all the way to another Top14 final this weekend, he previously held the same role at Leinster where he enjoyed a trophy-laden six-year spell.

It was at the RDS where Ross was a cornerstone of the former Waikato man's pack, and the 61-times-capped prop is sure his former coach can work similar wonders at Kingspan Stadium.

"It's a really good combo," said Ross of Gibbes teaming up with Kiss.

"Jono is quite hard-nosed and demanding but he really knows his stuff technically. He's a great addition to the squad.

"Any young player coming through will definitely be all the better for having him there.

"I think very highly of him. It's a good bit of business by Ulster."

Gibbes will not join up with Ulster until pre-season, so will not be coaching against Ross tonight when the former Leinster ace lines out for the Barbarians in what will be the final game of the Cork man's career (7.30pm kick-off).

With his post-rugby career beginning on Tuesday when he starts work as a commercial director, the former Harlequins man is looking forward to one last run-out.

Known for his technical proficiency in the scrum, the 37-year-old even joked that the crowd may see a different side of his game.

"I'll be trying a few flick out the back of the hand passes and stuff that would get you shot in a regular environment," he said.

"It's contagious I suppose. From playing the Baa-Baas, you get drawn into playing their game even if they're a bit better at it than you are.

"The backs have been disgustingly proud of themselves after winning one line-out (against England), we haven't heard the end of it.

"So I did ask (Ian Madigan) if I could try the kicking but once he stopped laughing he said no."

Meanwhile, Ulster ace Sean Reidy has been called up to the Ireland squad that will take on Japan in two Test games later this month.

Having been in New Zealand after Ulster's season finished early, the man who made his Test debut against South Africa last year was called into the squad after Tommy O'Donnell suffered an injury, although he will not be able to link up in time for next weekend's tussle with the USA Eagles.

With usual skipper Rory Best on British and Irish Lions duty alongside a host of other senior names, and Jamie Heaslip missing out through injury, Leinster's Rhys Ruddock will be the man to captain the relatively inexperienced side.

Head coach Joe Schmidt said: "It's a very young group without some of the guys who've led the team - Rory, Jamie, Peter O'Mahony.

"I think four years ago, Peter O'Mahony was the guy who led the tour so it's time for the mantle to be handed on for this tour. Rhys is an ideal candidate."

Barbarians side to face Ulster: A Goode, D Smith, W Nayacalevu, R Fruean, H Agulla, I Madigan, R Kockott; C King, C Flynn, M Ross, P Willemse, P Albacete, J Tekori, T Dusautoir (captain), F Isa.

Replacements: R Hibbard, V Pelo, C Johnston, J Thrush, C Masoe, K Fotuali'i, B James, JM Buttin.

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