Wales Under 18 head coach and WRU Performance Skills Coach (Ospreys region) Gruff Rees has agreed to join Italian Super Club Aironi Rugby on a one-year secondment from the Welsh Rugby Union. The move is seen as an initiative which will ultimately benefit Rees himself in his coach development, the WRU and Aironi Rugby.
“The WRU and I have been in discussions with Aironi since the start of the year and the club has since shown through their thoughts and philosophies that this is a unique coaching challenge where I could help to improve performances on the field, develop individuals within the Aironi set-up and also better myself as a coach from the experience,” said Rees.
“I want to thank both my employers the Welsh Rugby Union and also the Ospreys who have both been hugely supportive of my development over the years, but also with regards to this opportunity.” Rees will join up with former Neath coach Rowland Phillips at Aironi’s Viadana base, a partnership Rees is looking forward to renewing.
“I first worked with Rowland during my first stint with Wales Under 18, when Rowland was head coach,” he added. “We have the same approach to developing players and a similar attacking mindset. From there, I joined Rowland within the Neath coaching set-up in time for the 2006/07 season and we enjoyed two productive and successful seasons with the club. I’m looking forward to taking those shared thoughts and ideas into the professional game with Aironi.”
WRU Head of Rugby Joe Lydon endorsed the move saying, “We view this secondment as a positive initiative as part of the WRU’s ongoing professional development for our staff and in this instance as part of Gruff’s personal coach development. Gruff continues to be an integral part of the player and coach succession plan within the WRU and his work as Wales Under 18 head coach over the past 12 months has been invaluable for player and team development. This is a natural progression for Gruff’s development as a coach, it was an opportunity he was willing to explore and one which we are willing to support.”
Ospreys Chief Operations Officer Andrew Hore added: “Gruff is the second young coach who has been part of the Ospreys coach development pathway who has attracted the attention of an overseas club, and it is a great opportunity for him to further develop his skills in a different environment. I’m sure he will make the most of this chance and will thrive in Italy. At the Ospreys, we will continue to work hard developing young coaches, that will help to ensure long term, sustainable success, not only for the region, but for Welsh rugby as a whole, as better coaches equal better players.” Aironi Director of Rugby Franco Tonni said: “During the next season we want to continue the improving process we started during our first campaign and that’s why we chose Gruff. He is a hard worker, he has attention for every detail of the game and he has a great passion for coaching, and that’s what we need to improve”.