Jono Gibbes signs three-year contract extension with Clermont Auvergne

Munster confirm the departure of 11 players ahead of the new season

The list of contenders for the position of Leinster head coach is diminishing by the day following the confirmation that Clermont Auvergne assistant coach Jono Gibbes has signed a contract extension that will keep him at the French club until the summer of 2018. It follows on Robbie Deans's proclamation that he is not in the running for the role.

Gibbes coached the Leinster forwards alongside head coaches Michael Cheika, Joe Schmidt and for the first year of Matt O'Connor's tenure before moving to France last summer. The New Zealander fulfilled his role during the province's three Heineken Cup successes in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

He was highly regarded by the players during his time at Leinster and when O’Connor departed he was strongly linked with a return to Dublin. Deans was the original favourite with the bookies, with Gibbes next in line in terms of the betting, but Deans verbally, and Gibbes by signing a new contract, are no longer in contention to succeed O’Connor.

Gibbes – head coach Frank Azema has also agreed a new deal – explained his decision: "I'm very happy to be able to continue our collaboration, where we'll have the chance to further build our relationship and help the team towards the highest level possible.


“It’s also a family decision because we really like the Auvergne; the personal side of things is exceptional, as well as the sporting side. For me, it’s been a really positive experience and I’m really happy to continue with it.”

Gibbes's successor, Leo Cullen, will look after team affairs until a new coach is appointed.

Meanwhile, Munster have outlined that 11 players have left the province from last season's squad. Previous announcements confirmed that Paul O'Connell, JJ Hanrahan, Paddy Butler, Alan Cotter and Sean Dougall but Ivan Dineen, Martin Kelly, Johne Murphy, Barry O'Mahony and Australian, Andrew Smith are also moving on. Damien Varley retired because of a chronic injury.

Munster Rugby chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald said: "We would like to thank all of the players for their commitment and service to Munster Rugby. We wish them every success in the future as they advance to the next stage of their careers on and off the field."

The province also confirmed the incoming players, a list that includes Tomás O'Leary and Francis Saili, while Jack O'Donoghue, Darren Sweetnam and Peter McCabe have joined on development contracts, so too Jordan Coghlan, the former Clongowes schoolboy arriving from Leinster.

Seven new players will join the Greencore Munster Rugby academy for season 2015/16. Out of the current academy crop of 20 players two O’Donogue and Sweetnam will advance to senior development contracts while Ryan Murphy, Max Abbott and Jamie Glynn have been released.

Ireland U20s at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Italy, Tomás Quinlan, Liam O’Connor and Conor Oliver are joined by UCD prop JP Phelan while sub academy players Ben Kilkenny (Young Munster) and Steven McMahon (Garryowen) complete the academy.

The IRFU National Referee Panels for the 2015/2016 season have been confirmed with World Cup bound John Lacey and George Clancy among the elite grouping.

Former Old Crescent player, and Belgian Sevens and full international, Andy Brace has continued to progress and has gained promotion onto the Guinness Pro12 panel. Women's Six Nations and World Cup semi-final referee Helen O'Reilly and former Munster Leicester and Connacht scrumhalf Frank Murphy have both been promoted onto the IRFU's 'A' panel for the forthcoming season.

Former Irish women's international and Six Nations Grand Slam winner Joy Neville has been added to the 'B' panel, having successfully come through IPAS (Inter Provincial Appointments System).

2015/16 Greencore Munster Rugby Academy (position/club).

Year 3: Rory Burke (Prop/Cork Con), Jack Cullen (Scrumhalf/Bruff), Niall Horan (Prop/Shannon), David Johnston (Fullback/UL Bohs), Gearoid Lyons (Outhalf/Shannon), Sean McCarthy (Lock/Shannon), John Madigan (Lock/Dolphin), Greg O'Shea (Winger/Shannon), Rory Scannell (Centre/Dolphin), Alex Wootton (Winger/Garryowen).

Year 2: Stephen Fitzgerald (Fullback/Ard Scoil Rís), Ryan Foley (Scrumhalf/Cork Con), Dan Goggin (Centre/Young Munster), Darragh Moloney (Lock/Cork Con), Brian Scott (Prop/Dolphin).

Year 1: Ned Hodson (Centre/Cork Con), Ben Kilkenny (Back-row/Young Munster), Steven McMahon (Winger/Garryowen), Liam O'Connor (Prop/Cork Con), Conor Oliver (Back-row/St Mary's), JP Phelan (Prop/UCD), Tomás Quinlan (Outhalf/Cork Con).

National Referee Panels: Season 2015/2016 – Level 1L: G Clancy, J Lacey, P Fitzgibbon, D Phillips. Level 2: A Brace, D Wilkinson, G Conway. Level 3: K Barry, S Gallagher, L Colgan, E. Hogan-O'Connell, N Correll, M Patton, S Gaffikin. A Panel: D Blake, M Connolly, P Haycock, S Kierans, W O'Connor, J Carvill, S Douglas, O Hodges, B MacNeice, H O'Reilly, D Collins, J Erskine, K Imbusch, F Murphy, J Peak, K Collins, G Glennon, R Kerr, B O'Connell, O Quinn. B Panel: C Busby, D Flood, P Martin, B O'Keeffe, G Sheridan, J Cairns, C Harrington, J Neville, R O'Sullivan, T Townend, B Deighan, C Hogan, T O'Donoghue, A Reavey, R Watson, G Finn, D Horner.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer