Chris Gibbes has been appointed as the Wellington Lions head coach for the next three years.
The 43-year-old former Waikato coach is heading home to New Zealand after four successful years as the forwards coach at top Welsh club Ospreys.
Gibbes, who was New Zealand Under 20s assistant coach in 2013, said the opportunity to return home and resume his career on home soil with one of the country’s premier provincial union’s was too good to pass up.
“I’ve been away from home for nearly four years now, so when this exciting opportunity came up it seemed like the right time for me. It was too good to turn down” said Gibbes.
“Wellington are a province with a proud history and real ambition for the future, combined with excellent facilities and the squad depth needed to be successful, including some great young talent. That’s an exciting mix.”
Gibbes has an impressive coaching resume that stretches back to 2002.
He became Waikato’s assistant coach in 2008 and became head coach the following year, leading the Mooloo Men to back to back national provincial championship finals in 2010 and 2011 before bringing the Ranfurly Shield back to Hamilton in 2012.
After four years in Hamilton, Gibbes was head-hunted by Ospreys and headed to Wales in 2013 where he’s been a popular and successful member of the coaching staff ever since.
Ospreys were in second place on the Guiness Pro12 ladder heading into the latest round of matches, just two points off the lead, with eight wins and three losses this season.
They are currently in the midst of a seven-match winning streak and unbeaten in their pool in the European Rugby Challenge Cup after scoring 31 tries in the four matches.
Wellington Rugby Union chief executive Steve Rogers said Gibbes was ideally suited for the Lions top job.
“Chris has a proven record as a head coach over a long period at the highest levels of the game including assisting Japan at the 2007 Rugby World Cup and co-coaching Georgia’s national side for the first half of 2012.
“Importantly he also has a lot of experience working with young players, first with the New Zealand Under 17s, then as current Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd’s assistant with the under 20s.
“We believe we have a real bubble of young talent coming through in Wellington and that Chris is capable of helping that group as well as the depth of talent in our club competitions, realise their potential in the coming seasons.”
Rogers said the Lions assistant coach would be announced shortly and that the union had been pleased with the high calibre of applicants for the Lions head job vacated by out-going coach Earl Va’a.
After two years as Lions head coach Va’a takes on the role of Wellington Rugby Academy Manager from Darren Larsen, who has accepted a new job with the Hurricanes as the Super Rugby champion’s Recruitment and Development Manager.