Terry Cobner has agreed to return to Welsh rugby to take over as team manager of the newly created Wales Under 18 side.
The Pontypool, Wales and Lions back row legend, who won his first international honours in the then Welsh Secondary Schools Under 19 team against France in 1964, will head-up a management team that will have Kevin George as Head Coach and Ian Garnder, Paul John and Wayne Jones as his assistants. Ron Shottle will act as the Coaching Co-Ordinator.
'I was flattered to be invited to take over this important role and I am honoured to be involved,' said Cobner, who retired as the WRU's Director of Rugby at the end of July. 'I launched my international career at roughly this same age group 40 years ago when I won a Welsh Secondary Schools cap against France. I was one of the proudest men in Wales that day.
"When I left the Welsh Rugby Union in July, I was keen not to divorce myself completely from the sport. I always felt I could give something back to the game, and this age-group is particularly close to my heart so it is an ideal way of maintaining a link.
'The newly created Wales Under 18 team has a vital role to play in the development of future professional and international players. The new team, which will be an amalgamation of the best players from the former Welsh Youth and Welsh Schools sides at Under 18, will be more representative of the talent in Wales and will have a very strong fixture list.
'It will be my role as team manager, in conjunction with the coaches, to ensure the players understand the demands of the modern game and are better prepared to take the step up to Under 19 and Under 21 levels where they will be competing against the best young players in the world. The WRU has created an excellent international pyramid system by rationalising all its age group teams and the Under 18 side will play a key part in the developmental process.'
While the Welsh Youth Under 18 and Welsh Schools Under 18 sides played 10 international fixtures between them last season, the newly formed Wales Under 18 squad will have nine Test matches this season - four of them against England.
A squad of 45 players will be selected at the beginning of November and the new WRU Reebok Regional Under 18 competition will provide Kevin George and his fellow coaches and selectors with the perfect proving ground.
'The WRU has taken some very important steps to improve the quality of competition, coaching and development for players from Under 16 upwards. The Regional competitions at Under 16, Under 18 and Under 20 levels will provide a showcase for all young players to parade their talents and the age group Test teams will allow the best players to match themselves against their peers in Europe and across the world,' said WRU General Manager Steve Lewis. 'The coaching and management teams we have put in place for the national age group teams are all highly qualified and having someone of Terry Cobner's stature involved with the new Wales Under 18 team is a real boost. We hope his experience and status will act as a huge catalyst for players and coaches alike.
'The new streamlined, pyramid structure we have in place for the development of the game at age group level, both in the community and international sectors, will allow everyone to find their level. The best players will rise to the top, and be involved in the Regional Academies, while there will be plenty of opportunities for the rest to enjoy their rugby.'