IESTYN Thomas has been backed by Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde to do a top job with the Newport Gwent Dragons if he joins their backroom staff.
It is understood the region are set to sign ex-Scarlets and Wales loosehead prop Thomas to oversee their scrum – a problem area for the Dragons in recent seasons.
The 35-year-old, who is from New Inn and started his career at Pontypool and Ebbw Vale, was forced to retire from the game last month because of a serious neck injury.
He and McBryde know each other well, the pair were teammates for Wales and when the Scarlets were based at Stradey Park.
And Thomas, who won 33 caps and represented his country at the 2003 World Cup, is being backed to bring on the Dragons’ promising props by McBryde who coached the Wales forwards in the Grand Slam triumphs of 2008 and 2012.
With this season’s retirement of seasoned tighthead props Ben Castle and Nigel Hall through injury and Gethin Robinson’s absence due to an Achilles problem, the Rodney Parade side had to turn to young Nathan Buck, 22, and Dan Way, 25, to shore up their scrum.
Speaking about Thomas being linked with a move to the Dragons, McBryde said: “It would be great if he were appointed – we need more players of Iestyn’s calibre to be able to put something back into rugby.
“He has huge knowledge with regards to the scrum and was held in high regard by his teammates and by the players he’s played against as well, both internationally and regionally.
“Iestyn’s very grounded, he’s a good character to have and he’s certainly one I would lean to and ask his advice as well.
“If he does get the job then it would be good for Welsh rugby as well.”
McBryde believes the Dragons’ departing forwards coach Danny Wilson, who joins the Scarlets, did very well with Buck and Way.
“I think Danny made a difference to the Dragons – he did a lot of good work with Dan Way and Nathan Buck who have both made progress really.
“In fairness they’ve performed pretty well really considering how inexperienced they are as a group and they’ve got a young hooker in Sam Parry coming through.
“It’s a development and that’s one of the things we can’t overlook and it is going to take time.
“Speaking to Danny, Nathan will be one to watch out for in the future.”
With money scarce in Wales, McBryde thinks the Dragons’ policy of developing young players will stand them in good stead but urges patience.
“You’ve got to suffer the odd loss here and there, but in the long term you’ll benefit because these players will learn from their experiences and that’s the only way they are going to get better,” he said.
“Everybody’s looking for ready-made players but unless you’ve got the money to buy ready-made players, you’ve got to develop from within and I think that’s what a lot of regions are doing is developing from within.
“It’s a case of supporting these individuals and making sure that if you do suffer one, two or three poor games, they’re not cast on the scrap heap. You just go back to them and keep working with them because it’s the only way through it.”
Meanwhile, McBryde has no doubt that Wales' Grand Slam heroes are “keen for more” as they prepare to meet Australia in a three-Test series Down Under.
He is excited about the challenges that await in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney next month.
“Momentum is behind us since the World Cup, and we managed to keep that going through the Six Nations,” he said.
“I suppose everyone is waiting to see how we are going to react to that first loss we have as a group, but until we suffer that first loss, who knows?
“The players have created their own little bit of history, and they are keen for more. There is a huge carrot out there – to go down to Australia and hopefully win a series.”