Ulster will be left reeling if Gibbes exits, says Malone
Ulster assistant coach Niall Malone has admitted he would be "gutted" if Jono Gibbes were to leave the province.
The side's head coach, now fronting the on-field operation after Les Kiss' departure last month, is believed to be on a shortlist to fill the vacant spot as Australia's set-piece specialist.
"I saw that yesterday and texted him about it so I don't know what's happening there," said Malone. "He was laughing and denying it, so hopefully it's a fake rumour but we don't know.
"I'd be absolutely gutted if there was any truth in it, I really, really mean that. I didn't know Jono eight months ago and the two of us get on really well, so that's a personal thing, but if he stays it's going to be so successful, and I really hope the speculation is just that. Often it isn't, but I can't comment on that. I'm just really hopeful he'll be here for a long time."
Ahead of Friday night's home game with Edinburgh, Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe are fit and ready for action but both Rob Lyttle and Sean Reidy have been ruled out for six weeks.
The fate of Charles Piutau, struggling with dislocated rib cartilage, is less clear but Malone confirmed he is expected to be fit by the end of March at the latest.