Former Wales and Scarlets prop set to coach Dragons forwards, but skills coach Connor leaves
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons are poised to appoint former Wales prop Iestyn Thomas as their forwards coach but another member of the backroom staff has headed for the exit.
The Argus understands that the Dragons have turned to former Pontypool and Ebbw Vale loosehead Thomas to replace Danny Wilson, who left the region earlier this month to join the Scarlets.
Thomas, 35, will head in the opposite direction to his native Gwent after retiring in April because of a neck injury.
Improving the set piece was the first requirement when the Rodney Parade region started their search for Wilson’s successor and 33-times capped Thomas will certainly command respect in that department.
He also expressed a desire to pass on his knowledge of the dark arts when he announced his retirement last month.
He said: “I enjoy mentoring younger players. It’s funny because up until now I haven’t been able to teach people much – in my position you never want to give your secrets away.
“But I’d happily pass those secrets on to any young prop who would be willing to listen to me.”
The Dragons have a policy of not commenting on links with players or coaches until deals are complete, but the deal could be rubber-stamped within days.
Meanwhile, skills coach Shaun Connor has left the region to take up the same role with the Welsh Rugby Union based at the Ospreys Academy.
The 36-year-old former fly-half, who also coached Pontypool last season, will do the same job as that carried out by ex-Wales international Byron Hayward in Gwent.
“I’ve loved my four years – two as a player, two as a coach – with the Dragons,” said Blaina-born Connor, who was man of the match when the Ospreys beat Australia A in 2006.
“It was a tough decision to leave but I feel this is the best move for me in terms of my development as a coach.
“(Dragons director of rugby) Rob Beale was superb with me, understood the situation and agreed to release me from my contract a year early.
“I’m looking forward to it but I will remember some great times coaching with both the Dragons and Ponty-pool.”
It’s unlikely that there will be a like-for-like replacement for Connor with head of conditioning Alex Lawson, a former Newport fly-half, able to offer kicking advice and the possibility of enlisting the help of Hayward.