Gibbes to move to Clermont leaving O'Gara in charge at La Rochelle

Clermont-Ferrand (France) (AFP) –

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Clermont announced the appointment Thursday of former All Black Jono Gibbes as the Top 14 club's replacement for departing head coach Franck Azema, with former Ireland fly-half Ronan O'Gara stepping into Gibbes' role at La Rochelle.

Gibbes will leave his job at La Rochelle at the end of the season to take over from Azema, who is stepping down in order to take up the same role at Montpellier.

Azema, whose contract was due to run until 2023, revealed his exit plans in February. He has been with Clermont for 11 seasons, first as assistant to Vern Cotter and then, since 2014, as head coach.

Gibbes, 44, will return to Clermont in July on a three-year deal, the club said.

He was their forwards coach from 2014-17 and helped the club win the French title in his final season.

His departure means that O'Gara, who won 128 caps for Ireland and went on three tours with the British and Irish Lions, makes the step up to director of rugby at La Rochelle where he has worked with Gibbes since 2019 when he moved from Racing 92.

"I am extremely proud of the confidence shown in me by Stade Rochelais by appointing me as director of rugby," said the 44-year-old Munster man who will take up his new role on July 1.

"I am obviously very impatient to continue this adventure next season, but all in good time.

"We have important games ahead of us and, above all, a good season to end in the best possible way."

La Rochelle are currently second in the Top 14, tied on points with leaders Toulouse, and meet Leinster in the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup on May 2.