Struggling French powerhouse Clermont fire ex-All Black Gibbes

Ailing French rugby powerhouse Clermont sacked head coach Jono Gibbes on Monday, with the humiliating 44-29 home defeat in the Champions Cup by Leicester Tigers the final straw.

The 45-year-old former New Zealand back-rower leaves after less than two years in charge, with the two-time French champions languishing in 10th place in the Top 14 and facing an uphill battle to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions Cup.

"Due to recurring problems regarding the style of play and the position both in the Top 14 table and in the Champions Cup the president has decided to relieve Jono Gibbes of his responsibilities," the club said.

The players had been summoned early in the morning to be told the news, hours before they fly to South Africa for this weekend's Champions Cup clash with the Stormers.

The three-time European Champions Cup runners-up said defence coach Jared Payne, who made 20 Ireland appearances, would take over from Gibbes on an interim basis for the trip to Cape Town.

Clermont's only win in their last five matches has come at home to the South African side but the French outfit need to win to keep their hopes alive of reaching the knockout phase.

According to newspaper L'Equipe, former Bordeaux-Begles coach Christophe Urios is reportedly being lined up as Gibbes' long-term replacement.

The combative 57-year-old was fired by Bordeaux-Begles last November.

Gibbes, who had spoken of his shame at the Leicester hammering, has had to contend with a turbulent time at Clermont, especially with the departure at the end of last season of club greats, scrum-half Morgan Parra and fly-half Camille Lopez.

Though both of those players are nearing the ends of their stellar careers -- Parra is 34 and Lopez 33 -- the loss of Clermont's star player, France winger Damian Penaud, who is joining Bordeaux-Begles at the end of the season, will hit them hard.

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