Former Wales outside-half Matthew Jones is returning to Neath in a player-coach role.
The Maesteg-born pivot first played for Neath as a teenager when the Club was a professional entity, becoming the only club side to figure in a Celtic Cup final in 2002/03.
When the Game in Wales went regional, Matthew became Neath’s regular No.10 and in season 2003/04 he scored 344 points as the Blacks won the Welsh Cup for the fourth time and finished second to Newport in the newly-founded Premiership.
The following season, he was part of the Wales Under-21’s side which memorably clinched the Grand Slam by beating Ireland at The Gnoll. Matthew scored 17 points and 52 points in the tournament.
That summer, he was capped for Wales in a 60-3 victory in Canada and then settled into the Ospreys before embarking upon a much travelled career which took him to Moseley, London Welsh, Worcester, Bristol, Coventry as well as the Dragons and Pontypool.
In the last three seasons he has been a key component in Pontypool’s domination of the Championship as the Gwent club rattled off three successive titles but he missed this year’s promotion play-off against Llanelli due to a knee operation.
That is likely to cause him to miss the start of the season but he is looking forward to commencing his coaching duties as part of Patrick Horgan’s team with Andrew Howell.
Gwent College lecturer Matthew said, “I would like to thank everyone at Pontypool for the opportunities over the last three wonderful years. Neath, my first senior club, is more convenient for me in terms of travel but both clubs are dear to my heart.
“They are both big clubs with proud pasts and hopefully proud futures to come. I am really looking forward to developing my coaching alongside my old half-back partner Pat who is recognised as one of the most knowledgeable around.
“I can’t wait to get to work with what will be a new-look Neath back division – this is both a challenge and a fantastic opportunity.
“Having experienced men like Aaron Bramwell and Nicky Griffiths around a group of keen and ambitious youngsters will be a big help and I am very excited to be part of Neath’s re-build.
“We need to quickly make short-term improvements as, from my time at Pontypool, I know how difficult the Championship will be. Neath have a fantastic following of genuine rugby people who are realistic and we have high expectations.”
Archive Photos (featured above) – Courtesy of Mike Greenslade Photography: (March 2006: Neath v WRU Presidents XV)