NEIL Edwards has quit as head coach of Ebbw Vale to rejoin Neath and take charge of their forwards.
The former Wales A lock played for both the Steelmen and the Welsh All Blacks in a career that also took in Newport and the Dragons.
His departure after two and a half successful years is a blow to the Eugene Cross Park outfit.
He leaves them in second place in the Championship as they bid for a third title on the spin following back-to-back Division One East successes.
They have won all seven of their games and trail leaders Bargoed by a point.
The job of maintaining – and building on – his work will go to his right hand man Jason Strange, who has been promoted from the backs coach role that he has held since 2010.
Like Edwards, Strange has been a vital component in the Steelmen’s success story and he will be helped by skills coach Llyr Lane.
The fortunes of the Steelmen contrast with those of Neath – the traditional Premiership standard bearers have won just two of seven games this season.
Edwards will link up with another ex-Ebbw alumnus in Pat Horgan, who is head coach at the Gnoll.
"I would like to thank Ebbw Vale for allowing me to start my coaching career at this great club," said Edwards.
"An opportunity to join the coaching team at Neath RFC has arisen and the reasons that I have decided to accept are professional.
"I have thought long and hard about it and it was an extremely tough decision for me to come to.
"Even though Ebbw Vale is setup to Premiership standards it's frustrating that despite winning the league for two years running the club has not been promoted to the top division and I feel that my development is being affected by this restriction.
" There are very few other clubs that I would consider working for and feel that Neath is the right place for me to continue my development.
" Systems are now in place at Eugene Cross Park to ensure that the club sustains its very high standards and I am positive that EVRFC will continue to be a winning team both on and off the field."
Ebbw Vale admit it’s with a heavy heart that they see Edwards, a talisman of their pack in his playing days, head to the Gnoll.
"The club is pleased that Neil’s work has been recognised outside the club and that he has an opportunity to further his personal ambitions in rugby," read a club statement.
"However, we are saddened at the loss of a high calibre coach and individual from our club.
"Neil has been a key part of the team that has driven a remarkable turnaround in fortunes in the last two and a half years, both on and off the field.
"The club has won back-to-back Division One East titles winning a remarkable 49 out of 55 league matches.
"We wish him well at Neath and look forward to welcoming him back to Eugene Cross Park in his new capacity or on a personal level in the future."