Leinster Forwards Coach Jono Gibbes insists the province are in safe hands with Leo Cullen ready to step up and replace him at the end of the season.
Speaking ahead of their Rabo Pro12 semi-final clash, Gibbes gave an insight into the three-time Heineken Cup winning captain, but added there will be a transition period for the 32-time capped Irish lock.
“He’s a good man. He’s calm. He puts a lot of thought into what he does. The person that he is will transfer into the job and make it a bit easier straight away. He has got the guys’ respect. He carries himself really well and he’s methodical type. Those are great attributes to have. He will struggle to miss the game.
“There is always a period where you think you still want to play. He will go through that naturally enough. Other than that he has been around a while. He has seen most things over here. He will be able to cope really well. He is going to do a great job. His adjustments will be miner.”
Gibbes stated that Cullen’s trip to the Southern Hemisphere during the Six Nations to pick up coaching tips was simply a case of getting into an environment that afforded Cullen the opportunity to learn from a professional structure, something that the European game didn’t afford the coach to be.
“He felt like he wanted to go to different environments to get different perspective really. That was probably one of the things going to Leicester, to go and see how things are done somewhere else and you bring a bit of that stuff back and it grows you. The problem with Europe which is a bit different to New Zealand is that you can’t ring up the forwards coach in Munster and say how are you guys coping with that’ because they are your direct competitors. For him to get access to a different environment he has to go down there to do it.”
With his move to Clermont Auvergne a matter of weeks away, Gibbes remains focused on retaining the RaboPro12 title and added he had no hand in recruitment for Clermont this season as he chipped in with Leinster’s search for filling Cullen’s boots.
“It’s around the corner but the occasion on Saturday is keeping my focus very much here. (I’m) Absolutely (looking forward to it). It’s a good challenge and the opportunity is great but I don’t speak a lot of french so I’m a bit apprehensive too. We will see how that goes.
“Not really (on having an input in Clermont recruitment). I have been stuck in a… I’m not really there and obviously I have got input into where some of the (Leinster) roster is at with regards with the forwards but Leo (Cullen) has got a good understanding and Matt (O’Connor); it’s his decision with Guy (Easterby). As far as specific players as such, not really but as far as feedback to where I think the pack needs to evolve to, I have contributed a bit.”
If his contribution was limited in this his final year at the Province it was far from the case since his arrival in JUly 2008. Since then his forward pack have had no small part to play in securing three Heineken Cups, an Amlin trophy and last year’s Rabo Pro12 title. But there was no set plan he had upon his arrival and was quick to praise the players for turning Leinster into European giants. The growth in Leinster has been mirrored by his own growth as he leaves Ireland at the end of the season.
“By their own hands they have really progressed. They have a great understanding of what is important during the game and around the set piece stuff, they have grown themselves. Leo is really well placed to take it forward and go up another level again. Because he is coming out of the changing sheet, I’m sure he understands what the players talk about after they have had a meeting with me, a good insight and he will be able to say: ‘I won’t make that mistakes’. He will be able to add something because of his position as a player within the same group.
“It is difficult to do that but the person he is makes it easier. I have learnt a massive lot off the players when I came in and I have really enjoyed working with them. I think they are hungry, they are motivated, they are self-driven people. It makes it stimulating coming to work each week with guys like that who want to be better, are certainly hard on each other. I have learnt a lot off them and that is a real positive for me from my time at Leinster. I have grown and I’ve seen the growth of them taking responsibility for things in their own environment which is real pleasing.”
Cillian O Conchuir, Pundit Arena.