With the impending departure of Lyn Jones, current Head Coach and King of the Gnoll, Neath Rugby have appointed Simon King to lead the Welsh All Blacks into the 2018/19 season.
Highly experienced King will head up a coaching team of Paul Williams (backs), Paul James (forwards), Lewis Davies (S&C) and Idris Hamer (S&C).
King returns to the Premiership having taken a year’s sabbatical from coaching having previously coached uninterrupted in the Premiership for thirteen years. Prior to the game turning regional in 2003, King coached Caerphilly in the old Celtic League before moving to Cross Keys as an assistant to Dai Rees when the new Premiership was formed. In 2004, King was appointed Head Coach at Pontypridd and in his three years at Sardis Road he guided Ponty to a Welsh Cup win in 2006, having lost in the final the year before.
King is most remembered for his seven seasons at Aberavon, joining in 2007, and turning them into Premiership heavyweights, finishing in the top six in five of those seasons and featuring in the top three play offs twice. In 2014, King moved to Cardiff and finished fourth in his first full season at the Arms Park.
Alongside his Premiership coaching, King’s talents were recognised by the WRU who appointed him Head Coach of Wales U18s between 2006 and 2010 and was Assistant Coach with Wales U21s four years prior to that. With the U18s he won the 6 Nations tournament and with the U21s he won the grand slam and went to two Junior World Cups in Argentina and France.
Looking forward to his new challenge King commented ‘I’m delighted to be appointed the Head Coach of a Club with such rich heritage and potential. Having taken a bit of time out to regenerate as a coach and also work in other sports as a coach mentor I’ve been thinking what would be my next ideal challenge. Neath is a heavyweight in the Premiership full of history, it’s got a young, modern coaching team and it’s recruited an exciting squad going into a season which will be full of drama. This role at Neath fits that ideal perfectly for me and I haven’t felt as enthused about a coaching job and the season ahead in a long long time. I’m looking forward to meeting the players and supporters and getting the job started.’
King will be joined in his role coaching the forwards by former Neath and current Wales and Ospreys prop Paul James. Paul helped out Neath for the last two months of last season and left such an impression on the players and management that the Club were keen for him to remain in the role in the new coaching set up. Neath Rugby would like to thank the Ospreys for allowing this arrangement to continue as he starts his coaching career around his playing commitments with them. Dan Griffiths, Ospreys Head of Rugby, commented ‘Paul has a wealth of knowledge gained at both club and international level. He is a real character and leader, and it’s fantastic that players at Neath Rugby will get the opportunity to benefit from his experience. Paul understands the demands of the modern game, and will add detail and drive high standards which can only benefit the club, and the Ospreys pathway. We wish Paul and Neath the best for the coming season.’
Will Thomas, General Manager for Neath Rugby commented on the two appointments ‘When Lyn, Martyn and myself started the recruitment process we looked at what was needed as a coaching team as a whole. It was clear we needed experience and leadership and Simon King brings that in abundance. Equally important to us was the needs to keep up with the modern trends in the game and be able to deliver detail to our players and Paul James and Paul Williams fit that bill perfectly as they are both involved in rugby on a daily basis at the Ospreys and Neath College Rugby Academy respectively. They are also both two excellent ambitious coaches who will benefit from working with Simon as they have with Lyn.’
‘We are confident we’ve got an excellent coaching set up that is ready to hit the season hard. We welcome them both to Neath Rugby.’