PEMBROKESHIRE rugby ace Jonathan Thomas says that he is relishing his new role at Worcester Warriors, after being promoted to the position of head coach at the start of the year.

Thomas, a former Warriors captain, returned to Sixways as Forwards Coach during the summer, after four years coaching Bristol Bears, and was promoted to head coach earlier this month.

Working closely with experienced Director of Rugby Alan Solomons, Thomas heads a coaching team that includes his former Wales team-mate Mark Jones, who has joined as the Assistant Coach.

The 38 year-old, who hails from Hundleton, represented Pembroke RFC, and his career took off at Swansea RFC and Ospreys, before joining English Premier club Worcester Warriors as a player.

He made 44 appearances for Warriors between 2013 and 2015, helping to secure promotion from the Championship in a dramatic play-off final against Bristol, in what was his final match.

Thomas also won 67 caps for Wales between 2003 and 2011, including playing in two Grand Slam campaigns and two Rugby World Cups, before he moved into coaching after his retirement.

“I am very grateful for this opportunity, and I am extremely proud and excited to take on the role of Head Coach, because this is a club that I care passionately about,” said Thomas, who is a former pupil at Stackpole VC Junior School and Pembroke Comprehensive School.

“This appointment isn’t about me though. It’s about us as a group, and as a club working together to make Warriors successful. I am excited about the future of this club. By nature I am a glass half-full person, and I have always been really driven about being successful.

“I really believe in this club and its potential. When I first spoke to the owners and they talked about their vision for the club, the exciting academy players coming through and the long term plans that are in place for long-term sustainability, I was really excited.”

Thomas has welcomed the two-week break in the season caused by the decision to suspend the European Rugby Challenge Cup, due to concerns of French clubs about the spread of COVID-19.

Warriors were scheduled to travel to Swansea to play Ospreys, before hosting Pau at Sixways on January 23 in their remaining matches in the pool stage of the Challenge Cup.

With those fixtures postponed, the squad return to training on Monday to prepare for a demanding schedule of nine consecutive Gallagher Premiership matches, starting with the visit of reigning champions Exeter Chiefs on January 30.

Thomas said: “This down-week will give all the players a break, which we needed. We can then have a good conditioning week and, with Mark Jones having coming in as Senior Assistant Coach, it also gives us two weeks for us to work with him.

“We would have liked to have played in the Challenge Cup, because it would have meant opportunities for some of our younger players at Ospreys.

“That is the only down-side to the break but, in what is a difficult season given the volume of games week-after-week, it’s probably just what we need going into a tough bloc.

“Of course, that’s without even talking about Covid. It’s at its worst now, worse than it has ever been. The health and safety of everyone is the most important thing and so this break has probably come at a good time.”