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Ulster head coach Jono Gibbes returning to New Zealand this summer

Ulster are set to lose head coach Jono Gibbes at the end of the season, just over a month after director of rugby Les Kiss departed the province by 'mutual consent'.

Gibbes first arrived in Ireland in 2008 joining the Leinster coaching team, before moving to Ulster.

Gibbes has stated family reasons are behind his reason to return home.

Speaking about his decision, Gibbes said: "Being a long way from home for the last ten years has made me prioritise things above my career and so I'll be returning at the end of this season for family reasons.

"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.

"I wish the team and the club all the very best for the future, and I am grateful for their understanding and support.”

The news will be a blow to Ulster, who have endured a mixed season so far. They failed to get out of their Champions Cup group and over Christmas were hammered by Connacht and Leinster by a combined 59 points. This was all in the lead up to Kiss's departure.

Operations Director, Bryn Cunningham, said of Gibbes' departure: "While it's clearly disappointing to lose a coach of Jono's experience and quality, we fully understand and support his decision as family must always come first.

"We'd like to thank Jono for his dedication thus far and I know that he will be fully committed to us until the end of the season.

"A review of the coaching structure is ongoing and the desired outcome of this will be to provide us with a strong, well-balanced coaching team and some long-term stability.”

- PA