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Jono Gibbes is the right man to drive Ulster squad forward, insists Tony Ward

By Michael Sadlier

Former Ulster skipper Andy Ward believes that the province have made a statement of intent by appointing the well-regarded Jono Gibbes as new head coach for next season.

And Ward feels that his fellow Kiwi, both are from the Waikato region and know each other, will bring a much-needed fresh take to Ulster and, as such, work well with director of rugby Les Kiss.

"I think it's definitely a positive move," said the former Ireland player.

"He will bring a different dynamic, mind-set and mentality. He's a good lad and he wears his heart on his sleeve and that's good, too."

With Gibbes primarily being a forwards coach - where he worked at Leinster with Joe Schmidt before hooking up with current employers Clermont Auvergne who Ulster played in this season's Champions Cup - his input to Ulster in this area should be invaluable.

But Ward feels that Gibbes' presence will be significantly more far-reaching than dealing with Ulster's forward plays.

"It's a bit like Pat Lam going to Connacht in the sense that he actually changed the way they played and ensured that they evolved hugely well," Ward added of the 40-year-old former All Black.

"I think that's something Ulster definitely need as over the last few years they seem to be going around in a bit of a circle."

Gibbes is the first part of all new coaching ticket which will be working under Kiss for next season with both Neil Doak and Allen Clarke believed to be on their way out of the Kingspan Stadium.

A new backs coach - Doak is the outgoing head coach with responsibility for backline attack while Clarke currently oversees the forwards - will be announced in the near future as Kiss looks to take Ulster to the next level.

"Les has got a big job to do to change a lot of stuff," observes Ward.

"And to do that he has big calls to make."

There is no doubting Gibbes' pedigree having worked at Leinster between 2008 and 2014 and been part of the three Heineken Cups secured by the southern province with the first in 2009, under Michael Cheika as head coach, before Schmidt's successes of 2011 and 2012, the latter final seeing Ulster swept aside at Twickenham.

Gibbes joined Clermont in 2014 and has widened his coaching experience to, interestingly, also oversee elements of attack strategy, another string to his bow which he will bring to the Kingspan for next season.

"I think he'll encourage maybe more of an off-loading style of game," says Ward.

"I think if that (type of playing) opens up for Ulster it will make them a very dangerous team."

Reacting to his move Gibbes, who won eight caps for the All Blacks said: "The respect that I have for Les as a coach and as a person, was one of my main reasons for making this decision.

"He really sold his vision of where he wants to take Ulster over the next few years."

Kiss added: "Jono's expertise as a forwards coach is obvious, however his wealth of knowledge in other areas of the game will be really important for us."

"A review of the coaching structure is ongoing ahead of next season and the appointment of Jono is the first part of that process.

"A further announcement will be made in the coming weeks."

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From Belfast Telegraph