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Ulster coach Gibbes dismisses link to Australia job as 'fake news'


By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster head coach Jono Gibbes has broken his silence over rumours he is set to quit the province, dismissing the speculation as "fake news" and saying he had been too busy coaching to refute the story earlier in the week.

Reports in Australia have suggested the former All Black is being targeted for the role of set-piece coach for the Wallabies, a move that would provide a reunion with his former Leinster colleague Michael Cheika.

Gibbes, who only arrived in Belfast last summer, has been put in charge of team selection following Les Kiss's departure last month but was said to be vying with Laurie Fisher and Nick Stiles for the Australian position that is to be filled in the coming weeks.

"Sorry I didn't get back to you earlier in the week, I was coaching rugby, that's what I was up to," he said, seemingly amused.

"Personally knowing Michael (Cheika), he's either trying to sniff out something in his own organisation to see who's leaking things, or he's putting out a complete smokescreen or something.

"I can only speak for myself, that's not for me to dismiss Laurie or Nick but that's what I assume. It's fake news."

Gibbes added: “I don’t have Twitter so I couldn’t tell you that on Tuesday, and I was actually working.”

Gibbes has a job on his hands in Belfast to get Ulster back into the PRO14 play-offs after Friday’s loss to Edinburgh saw Richard Cockerill’s men leapfrog them in the table and take over third place.

The side now sits fourth out of seven teams in Conference B and even risk missing out on next season’s Champions Cup if they can’t get back on track over the final six games of the campaign.

Gibbes was pleased by his side’s desire in the second home reverse of the season but admitted that some basic errors in the final minutes, as well as an injury to out-half Johnny McPhillips, undid their efforts.

“Everyone knew what was at stake and that’s why the changing room is devastated,” he said.

“You can’t fault the attitude of the guys, I didn’t stand there in front of them after the game and say we have to question our desire here, not at all. We put a hell of a lot into that game, the players did, there are just a couple of things that are going to be really tough to go back through, but a few things need to be done well consistently.

“Obviously, the reshuffle at the halves wasn’t ideal, but exiting hurt us.”

Now as close to fifth as they are to second, Ulster are back in action away to Scarlets on Saturday evening after the Ireland-Wales game.

Meanwhile, Richard Cockerill has praised his Edinburgh side as they push for an unlikely play-off spot.

The capital outfit’s 17-16 win over Ulster in Belfast on Friday night moved them up to third place in the Guinness PRO14’s Conference B.

With seven regular-season games left, starting with Dragons away next Friday, Cockerill knows it is now down to his side to maintain their current form and book their place in the quarter-finals.

Cockerill said: “The Edinburgh players should be really proud of themselves. That win puts us in a really good position to try and make the top three, which at the start of the season was pretty unrealistic. Now it’s in our own hands.”

√ Benetton came from behind to clinch an 18-15 victory and inflict an 11th PRO14 Conference B defeat on Newport Dragons this season.

The Dragons had looked on course to grab victory and a four-try bonus point after hooker Liam Belcher, with two, and wing Jared Rosser scored tries.

But none were converted by outside half Zane Kirchner and that proved to be the difference.

Benetton scored tries from flanker Alberto Sgarbi and wing Monty Ioane in a frantic first quarter, with full-back Ian McKinley converting one of them. But two second-half penalties from fly-half Marty Banks turned the game their way.

The match began at a blistering pace with 22 points scored in the opening 15 minutes.

Benetton finished on top as stern Dragons head coach Bernard Jackman looked on from the stands.

Two tries for the Italians were ruled out in the final minutes as they secured an eighth league win and left the home side with only a second losing bonus point of the season for their efforts.

Belfast Telegraph

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