Heineken Cup: Leinster coach Gibbes hails forwards
Jono Gibbes is a huge man — so big his frame offered some brief shelter for several journalists during the ill-timed spring showers that arrived as Leinster gave their press briefing in a south Dublin carpark yesterday.
The Leinster forwards coach won eight caps for the All Blacks. He also captained the Maori when they beat the 2005 Lions and to Churchill Cup success in 2006, and made 68 appearances in Super Rugby for the Chiefs, appearing in the second-row and back-row.
He was known as a tough operator who never gave an inch on the field, but having watched Leinster's Heineken Cup quarter-final win over Leicester last Saturday, he says the level of impact on the rugby pitch has moved on from his playing days, which only ended three years ago.
Gibbes added that although he wouldn't have fancied taking the hits himself, he was happy with his charges' efforts.
“I don't think I would have fared too well out there,” he said. “I fringed my way through for quite a long time.
“The general effort by the forwards was good. They were pretty honest with how they laid their bodies on the line.
“That's what needed to happen against Leicester. They're all pretty beaten up but we move on now and focus for Saturday. There's going to be a bit of heat in that game too.”
Ulster may be next up for Gibbes' charges, but much of the buzz in Donnybrook yesterday surrounded Toulouse and the forthcoming semi-final.
It's a rematch of last year's affair, but Leinster have home advantage this time around.
They were beaten up in France last year, but having overcome the Tigers at the Aviva Stadium, Leinster look in a better place for this season's assault on Europe's most successful club.
There have been suggestions that Guy Noves' side are over the hill, but Gibbes warned: “They've got a pretty experienced coach there and he knows how to juggle his roster and move players on and bring players in, so I doubt he's going to be stuck with a team that's over the hill.”