Gruff Rees has been appointed as Cardiff Blues' academy manager ahead of the 2018/19 season.
The 42-year-old joins Wales’ Capital Region, and succeeds Clive Jones in the role, following 13 years at the Ospreys, where he had been backs coach since 2012.
Born and bred in Cardiff, Rees was educated at Ysgol Gyfun Glantaf, and appeared in the famous Blue and Black colours of Cardiff RFC during his playing career, having previously represented the Cardiff youth and under-21 sides.
Rees became Glamorgan Wanderers head coach in 2001, a post he held for four years, before working with the Welsh Rugby Union as a national skills coach, where he would design skills programmes for the national academies.
With a commitment to develop and promote players from within the pathway, Rees’ role is to ensure that Cardiff Blues continues to produce quality youngsters for the first team.
Thirteen academy graduates featured in the Challenge Cup final victory over Gloucester in May, and the region is determined to see youngsters reach their potential and follow in the footsteps of the likes of Jarrod Evans, Seb Davies, Tomos Williams and Owen Lane.
Rees will also oversee Cardiff Blues’ age-grade sides, as well as the new development side, which will be in place for next season.
Another important element of the role will be maintaining key links and communications with the host of thriving schools and colleges within the region, who remain vital in the players’ pathway towards professional rugby.
Rees is delighted to return to work with his home region and is excited at the prospect of working within the renowned academy system.
Rees said: “I can’t wait to get started in the role. It’s great to be returning to work in Cardiff, and the potential within this group of boys is really exciting.
“I had a special time playing with Cardiff, and my time as head coach of Glamorgan Wanderers was an important stage of my coaching career.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Ospreys, and one aspect of the job I was always proud of was seeing local youngsters - your likes of Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb, Dan Biggar, Owen Watkin - break into the first team and becoming key squad members.
“Working with and developing future internationals is fulfilling as a coach, and I’m also looking forward to link up with talented young coaches such as Richie Rees and Duane Goodfield.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with the development of young players, and it is something I’ve experienced throughout my career - with Glamorgan Wanderers, Welsh Rugby Union, Ospreys, and now Cardiff Blues.
“We’ve already seen the potential in this team, with the likes of Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans and Seb Davies being influential throughout last season’s Challenge Cup victory.
“The region is a hot-bed for local talent, and our aim is to continue the implementation of these youngsters into the Cardiff Blues squad for years to come.”
Meanwhile, chief executive Richard Holland has welcomed the appointment, and is looking forward to seeing another Cardiff local join the backroom staff at the Arms Park.
“As a region, we’re really excited for the opportunity to welcome an experienced coach such as Gruff here, and are looking forward to seeing him work with the host of talented youngsters in the pathway,” said Holland.
“Our commitment to the academy and our youngsters has clearly paid off in recent years, climaxing in last season’s Challenge Cup win, and now they have an opportunity to earn their spot in the Champions Cup sides.
“We’re proud to see a large percentage of local players in the side, who have gone on to win international honours, and we’re looking forward to see this continuing in the future.
“Gruff was born and bred within the region, will know exactly what the club stands for and it’s great to have someone like that working on developing our youngsters.
“We would also like to thank Clive for his work here and wish him the very best in his future endeavours.”