Gibbes and Kelleher set for Heineken reunion
April 29, 2010
Jono Gibbes will meet up with former team-mate Byron Kelleher this weekend © Getty Images
The last time Jono Gibbes and Byron Kelleher met they were team-mates, battling for the same cause. Since their careers with the Chiefs ended - Gibbes in 2008 after six seasons as captain for a coaching position at Leinster and Kelleher, after winning his 58th Test cap against France in the 2007 World Cup, to challenges afresh with Toulouse - their paths have yet to cross on the pitches of Europe.
Gibbes, a back-row forward who played eight internationals for New Zealand - including the series clinching 48-18 victory over the 2005 Lions with Kelleher - told ESPN's SportsCenter that he has the inside word on the Toulouse scrum-half for their Heineken Cup semi-final clash on Saturday.
"It's a little bit different now, I not playing, so I'll be sitting in the stands watching him push and navigate the Toulouse pack around the field," Gibbes said. "I haven't got much control over that but I have certainly shared a few inside secrets with the Leinster guys about his approach and his attitude towards the game."
Gibbes, who has just signed a new two-year deal with the defending champions, is full of praise for his former colleague - who helped Toulouse reach the 2008 final in his first year with the club.
"I think he's had fantastic form over here since he's moved over from New Zealand," he said. "He's a key man for them, a danger for us. We'll be trying to nullify that threat pretty early. I think he's really fitted in well with the way Toulouse want to play. He's added something and he's a great link between a classy, experienced backline and a big, powerful forward pack. I think he's the perfect type of player for the way Toulouse want to play and I think his sniping round the ruck and his kicking game especially have been pretty potent this year."
The two have kept it strictly business in the build-up to the knock-out game, though Gibbes is sure that once the winners and losers have been decided they will catch up like old team-mates.
"He's reluctant to meet me before the game," he said. "I think he realises that I would try and sabotage him so he's stayed away from me. Certainly afterwards we'll probably grab a beer and have a proper catch up but I think business comes first this week."
And will the winner or loser buy the round? "I guess I was always going to pay for that anyway, I don't think I've ever seen Byron buy a drink so I'm prepared to bring my wallet along this time," Gibbes joked.
While Kelleher is still making an impression on the field, Gibbes is learning off it from an Australian who has injected an enthusiasm and a winning mentality into the Dublin club. Michael Cheika departs for Stade Francais at the end of the season, but he will be replaced by Clermont's Kiwi backs coach Joe Schmidt and Gibbes is excited by learning from him as he continues his apprenticeship.
"He's a good exponent of back play, a sharp thinker and I think he a great replacement for Cheiks here, I think he will bring a different approach, a bit of man-management stuff but I think as a group Cheiks has set it all up and developed the squad and I think Joe's going to come and really add something," he said. "I think the future's looking positive for Leinster and I'm looking forward to working with Joe and learning a lot off him."
While acting like a sponge absorbing the knowledge of those around him, Gibbes dreams of one day returning to New Zealand and coaching there at the top level. "I'm just focusing on the next two years working with Joe coming in and hoping to learn a lot off him," he said. "My immediate future is here and long-term future I'd love to get back to New Zealand."
Jono Gibbes' exclusive interview will air this week in Australia and New Zealand on ESPN SportsCenter
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