Jono Gibbes says Clermont must evolve their strategy for Munster clash

French side’s 16-9 victory at Thomond Park down to ‘good preparation’

Clermont Auvergne forwards coach Jono Gibbes: “We’ve looked in their eyes and they’ve looked in our eyes. Now we have to go back and evolve our strategy, maybe get some better lineout options.”  Photograph: Ian Kington/Afp/Getty Images

Clermont Auvergne forwards coach Jono Gibbes: “We’ve looked in their eyes and they’ve looked in our eyes. Now we have to go back and evolve our strategy, maybe get some better lineout options.” Photograph: Ian Kington/Afp/Getty Images

 

After ASM Clermont Auvergne’s 16-9 victory in Thomond Park last Saturday night we found a familiar face leaning against the changing room wall draped in Clermont, not Leinster, blue. Jono Gibbes suppressed a smile no matter how hard we probed.

You understand why. No point publicly celebrating the obvious, not with the Munster legion descending on stade Marcel Michelin this Sunday.

“I was personally pretty motivated but just because I wanted to make sure we had good preparation and we didn’t get embarrassed here,” said Gibbes.

“Pride was my main motivation and to make sure we gave a good account of ourselves here because it is a difficult environment for sure.”

Vercingetorix would have approved the viciousness of Saturday’s first-ever French win in Limerick. It was the chieftain of the Arverni tribe, you may recall, who united the Gauls and routed Julius Caesar’s army at Gergovia in 52 BC. Vercingetorix’s statue, upon mounted steed, will be seen by the red army as they sweep into Clermont-Ferrand. Ancient wars and modern sport (his shield is the Bouclier de Brennus – the trophy awarded for capturing the French Top 14) are an easy parallel after witnessing the brutality of this clash of European tribes.

Slaying

Damien Chouly

More recently he ran another pack that bettered Munster with Leinster repaying Clermont the gift of Joe Schmidt when the 37-year-old took over from Scotland’s new coach, Vern Cotter, during the summer. Are the gargantuan Clermont forwards the biggest, most physically imposing Gibbes has coached or played with?

“Yeah,” he agreed. “Certainly some big athletes, big units. But there are challenges with that as the French league has a different emphasis and I have had to adjust my understanding to learn how it all works.”

Steeper peaks

“It happened naturally enough,” Gibbes continued. “Peter O’Mahony is a massive carrier, Paulie’s a massive work horse, those guys are inevitably going to get the ball in their hands. The whole thing was to go forward, we had to get off the line. For large parts of that we were pretty good at it.

“I wouldn’t want to do 80 minutes of that defence again. It would be better if we could continue the momentum we created in the first half but Munster adjusted.”

Chouly, hardly a novice at 29 and with 24 caps for France where he’s currently the resident number eight, has taken over the captaincy from Aurélien Rougerie. He said afterwards that he knew O’Connell would call that last lineout on himself. So he went up and stole it.

“Yes it was a big pressure release valve,” said Gibbes of how the contest was closed down. “Damien read the situation and he backed himself. He is an experienced player, plays a lot of tests for France and is pretty vital for what we do. But the collective understand what we are trying to do. We didn’t do it all right so we need to be better next week.”

That’s worryingly true. The Clermont lineout malfunctioned three times and Camille Lopez landed just one from four shots at goal to a perfect three from three by Ian Keatley. That’s seven points left on the field in a seven-point victory. Should have been more.

“Unfortunately we have to play the same guys next week. We’ve looked in their eyes and they’ve looked in our eyes. Now we have to go back and evolve our strategy, maybe get some better lineout options.”

It’s worth recalling that Caesar did crush the Gauls and captured Vercingetorix at the battle of Alesia, eventually parading him through the streets of Rome before execution by strangulation.

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