By Tony Crimp

WHILST a return to competitive sport throughout the UK is still uncertain the management teams at Old Penarthians have been using the time in ‘lockdown’ productively as they plan for a time when rugby can again be played at the community levels of the Welsh National Leagues.

Off field procedures are being considered and implemented by Mel Jones and his social club committee for the day when the clubhouse can again welcome members, while Stephen Clarke, the RFC chairman, and a small team have been looking at the playing and coaching structure of the club.

Part of that review was out of necessity because after five very busy coaching years of the Old Pen’s senior teams, Simon Hurley and Anthony Davies decided that the time was right for them to stand down and to allow fresh blood to come into the club to take it to the next stage.

The club is very grateful for Simon and Anthony’s commitment and support which has never wavered throughout the time they have been involved and their efforts in getting the team promoted and establishing itself as promotion candidates in the last two seasons will not be forgotten.

Their departure, whilst regrettable, did offer an opportunity to Clarke to consider other options and to try and identify a new head coach as quickly as possible.

As fate would have it an exciting new coach made himself available and after a series of discussions Old Penarthians are now pleased to announce that Jake Thomas will take up this position, commencing in June

Jake is a former Cardiff, Pontypridd and most recently Merthyr back row forward.

He started his career however with his local club Ynysybwl and gained representative honours with Wales at Youth level. He was also called up the Blues regional age grade squads.

The Blues Academy placed him with Cardiff RFC in 2007, and Jake spent three seasons with the capital club, gaining further international honours with Wales under 20s.

In 2010 Jake joined Pontypridd and he went on to make over 150 appearances for the Premiership team before joining Merthyr.

Jake is however not only a talented rugby player he is also a Level 3 coach with extensive experience of regional age-grade and academy performance player development.

Until recently he was employed by the WRU as one of their regional development managers and has considerable experience of all aspects of Welsh rugby and rugby clubs.

Initially, Thomas will spend his time getting to know the players and bringing in additional coaching support to ensure that all players, current and new, will receive the very best up-to-date coaching advice.

In association with this senior team coaching appointment the club considered that the strong mini and junior section required new leadership to give a comprehensive structure to the organisation.

It was determined that a new role would be created and Keri Lovell has been appointed as the club’s first ever director of rugby.

Keri was until recently the Vale of Glamorgan hub officer for the WRU with special responsibility for developing rugby at both Penarth senior schools and all the primary schools.

He was particularly proud to have been awarded the national hub officers award for changing the women’s game and also the national award for coach development in his first year in his role with the WRU.

He is currently the forwards coach for the Cardiff Blues under 16s team and is a qualified Level 3 coach.

Prior to coming to South Wales, Keri was head coach at Canterbury Christchurch University for their women’s rugby teams, head coach at Gillingham Anchorians RFC and a development coach for England RFU.

The role will be an all-encompassing one with responsibility for overseeing the growth and development of all forms of rugby at the club from the Mini age grade U6, through to seniors, veterans and ladies.

The role will also include individual player development and player retention.

Keri has never lost his passion and commitment for rugby and the club is sure that his enthusiasm, experience and drive will be a huge asset in enabling Old Penarthians to grow and become ever more relevant to the local community.

Upon his appointment, Keri said: “Since moving to South Wales I have been amazed at the passion for rugby throughout the community and this is particularly so in Penarth.

“I hope in my new role at the Old Pens I will be able to give something back to a sport that has given so much to me over the years.”

Rugby as our national sport may well be under considerable pressure at the moment but Old Penarthians RFC consider that these new appointments will give an impetus to grow the club further and build on the solid foundations that already exist.

If anyone is interested in joining this new initiative as either a player, administrator or supporter please contact the club website email address of oldpensrfc@live.co.uk