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Time to go, former stars tell crisis-hit Ulster chief Logan


By Jonathan Bradley

Former Ulster heroes believe the time has come for the province's rugby chief executive Shane Logan to fall on his sword after the latest high-profile blow to the crisis-hit side.

Yesterday head coach Jono Gibbes revealed he would be leaving the Kingspan Stadium at the end of the season and returning to his native New Zealand for family reasons.

His departure follows the exit of Director of Rugby Les Kiss who resigned last month.

In a campaign that goes from bad to worse and still offers no guarantee of securing Champions Cup rugby next season, the departure of Ulster's still highly regarded head coach is the latest knock to a side Logan once said he intended to make a "world-class organisation on and off the pitch".

After Operations Director Bryn Cunningham was again left to field questions yesterday - the former full-back admitting the province were almost at "rock bottom" - former stars Stephen Ferris and Paddy Wallace were in no doubt over who should be the next man out. "Shane Logan has to be accountable. It's time for change," Ferris said.

"He has to come out and say this is why the plan hasn't been executed instead of Bryn having to come out and answer every single question."

Ferris, a Lion in 2009 and a refreshingly outspoken pundit throughout his former side's continued slide, has said in the past that Logan has questions to answer and again felt his silence spoke volumes.

"To me the man in charge of this declining Ulster set-up needs to come out," he added.

"It's time for change, we've seen changes with coaches and it hasn't worked out."

His statements were echoed by Wallace, who like Ferris was part of the last Ulster side to win a trophy all the way back in 2006 and retired as the province's record appearance holder.

"It needs a new skipper at the helm. Shane has had his time," said the former centre. "He inherited a good team and good stadium and things were rosy.

"Shane wanted world domination and has to be accountable.

"He hasn't reached his targets. They need to bring in a new CEO, one with more experience within rugby circles."

Earlier in the day, Cunningham had been the one in the firing line, left to try and placate a frustrated fanbase.

"We almost have hit rock bottom in a way but sometimes you have to do that to effect significant change," said Cunningham. "That's what we're in the process of doing and what we have to do moving forward. From the outside, I've no doubt it looks very unstable but from the inside, it doesn't feel like that as much.

"You don't have a lot of time to dwell on it and worry that things are going to go pear-shaped.

"We've got ourselves to a point where we have to make some serious changes to how we operate. The main aim for me is to get the fans behind us, to have faith."

The debate came after yet another tumultuous day in BT6 was sparked by the news that Gibbes would be walking away come May.

"Being a long way from home for the last 10 years has made me prioritise things above my career and so I'll be returning at the end of this season for family reasons," said the former All Black, who arrived in Belfast last summer after a successful coaching career with Leinster and Clermont.

"The decision to leave here is a difficult one professionally, because I support the team and the staff, and I am excited for what the future holds for them. I believe there are enough passionate and professional people involved to build on the existing strong foundations of the club.

"The challenge ahead for Ulster demands the full attention of everyone involved; the management group, the team, the coaches and support staff. It is exciting and achievable. However, I cannot in good conscience provide my full attention for the journey ahead.

"My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Ulster to date and we're very grateful for the welcome and good spirit afforded to us."

Continued from back page

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