The Welsh Rugby Union has announced an impressive line-up of coaches and managers of its international age grade, Women's and Sevens sides for the 2008/09 season, which includes former Wales internationals Phil Davies, Paul John, Mark Taylor, Tony Clement, Dale McInstosh, Wayne Proctor and Byron Hayward.
The selection process included valuable input from Wales head coach Warren Gatland and WRU Group Chief Executive Roger Lewis who advised on the coaching and managerial skills needed for the roles. The national management teams will report to National Performance Manager Huw Wiltshire.
Wiltshire stressed, "A key strategy behind these appointments, and behind the ongoing operational management of the teams throughout the season, is to align the coaching strategies within these elite, international sides to those of the National Team.
"Player and coach development is fundamental to the ethos of these sides and it is vital to work achieve a close, working relationship with the Regions and Principality Premiership sides in order to create a smooth pathway into professional Regional and international rugby for our elite, young players.
"Along with the individuals appointed to the various roles within these teams, I'm thrilled that Dai Young (Under 20 and Under 18), Colin Hillman (Sevens) and Danny Wilson (skills) are to act as technical advisors to the sides, while WRU Performance Lifestyle manager Alun Davies will act as Management advisor. Our common aim is to produce players for our regional and international sides so to have a current Regional head coach on board as a bench mark will be an added bonus for our coaches and players. The coaching and team management roles were all openly advertised which generated a huge amount of interest from talented individuals from across the rugby spectrum."
Former Scarlets and Leeds Tykes director of rugby and 46-times capped lock Phil Davies has been given the role of Wales Under 20 head coach, and will be assisted by former Wales Sevens coach and Cardiff Blues skills coach Gareth Baber and Wasps assistant coach Rob Hoadley, who, as one of Shaun Edwards' assistants at London Wasps, is in a position to develop Edwards' techniques and philosophy with the Welsh youngsters. The side will be managed by 37-times capped former Wales full back Tony Clement with 39-times capped former Wales wing Wayne Proctor appointed as fitness coach.
Phil Davies said, "I'm thrilled to have been given the chance to get back into top level coaching, and to be able to make a contribution to Welsh rugby again. I'm excited to be working with our quality youngsters, and to give them a positive experience to take back to their regions and to be able to pass on some of Warren Gatland's philosophies, mixed with my own.
"I'm delighted with the make-up of the Under 20 management team. It's fantastic that young Welsh players will benefit from the likes of Rob Hoadley who has played and coached in the Guinness Premiership, and who will no doubt develop Shaun Edwards' defensive structures at Under 20 level.
With Tony Clement and Wayne Proctor in the management team, that's a huge amount of first hand international experience and knowledge to pass onto future Welsh internationals, and I have a huge amount of belief in Gareth Baber and his coaching skills."
Wales coach Warren Gatland said, "Communication is key and by working together, not only in the appointment of these coaches and managers, but throughout the season, especially with the Under 20 set-up, we hope to make the transition from age grade and international Sevens rugby to senior regional and international rugby as seamless as possible for players and coaches.
"It's great to have someone like Phil Davies on board, he has achieved a huge amount in the game, and it would be a shame to lose him to Welsh rugby. It's important that the individuals honing and shaping our future internationals are either at the cutting edge of top class rugby, or have experienced that level of the game."
Roger Lewis added, "Someone of Phil Davies' calibre and standing in the game is a huge boost to international age grade rugby and the development of our elite, young players in Wales, while the appointment of two Premiership coaches to head coach positions (Simon King and Paul John) and two others to assistant coach positions (Richard Hodges and Dale McInstosh) show the value we place in the semi-professional league as a key platform for player and coach development.
"There is no doubt that by joining up our strategies and philosophies, not only across the elite performance department, but across the whole of the Welsh rugby family will help us achieve our mission to take Welsh rugby to the forefront of the global game in performance and reputation."
Aberavon head coach Simon King will continue as Wales Under 18 head coach, and will be assisted by Pontypridd assistant coach Dale McIntosh and former Newport and Harlequins scrum-half Darren Edwards, who is now part of the Quins' coaching set-up. Former Wales and Lions centre Mark Taylor has been appointed team manager of the side in his first managerial role.
King said, "Formative development of players is essential and I'm looking forward to joining up with the rest of the coaching team and getting on with the job in hand which is to develop players individually and collectively to step up to the next level."
Last season's Principality Premiership Coach of the Year, Pontypridd's Paul John has been handed the role of Wales Sevens head coach. He will be assisted alternately by former Wales Sevens international forward and current Llandovery player Gareth Williams and Glamorgan Wanderers head coach Richard Hodges. Three academy fitness coaches Byron Hayward, Eifion Roberts and Rhodri Williams will each cover at least two IRB Sevens World Series tournaments, while colonel David Jenkins, who has managed the side since Wales' return to the IRB Sevens circuit three years ago, will continue in that role.
Paul John said, "I'm excited at this new challenge in my coaching career. Sevens offers a range of development tools for players, giving them vital exposure both on and off the field which often provides a stepping stone into regional rugby. I'm thrilled to be able to learn from Colin Hillman's technical knowledge and expertise of international Sevens."
For Wales Women, Jason Lewis and Aled Thomas have been re-appointed head coach and assistant for the forthcoming season, with Ryan Harris continuing as fitness coach and Donna Crossman appointed as team manager. Wales Women finished second in last season's Six Nations for the second time in three seasons. Lewis said: "We've come a long way in our progression as a team. However, our goal is the Women's Rugby World Cup in 2010 and this season will be a vital part of the journey towards that objective."
SWALEC Official Partner of WRU international age grade sides
Energy giant SWALEC has become the Official Partner of the WRU's international age grade sides as part of a three-year sponsorship deal which also sees the energy company become the National Community Partner of Welsh Rugby.
The partnership reunites Welsh rugby with Wales' leading energy company with SWALEC providing electricity and gas to more than a million customers in Wales and will in future provide the power for the Millennium Stadium.
Under the new agreement SWALEC are now sponsors of: The SWALEC Cup, The SWALEC National Leagues, Wales U20 and Wales Under 18; the SWALEC Community XV.
WRU Group Chief Executive Roger Lewis said: "Reuniting with SWALEC is great news for Welsh rugby and we are delighted that they have chosen to support international age grade rugby which is such a vital platform for developing talent."