Bernard Jackman has been appointed as the new head coach of the Dragons, starting next Monday.
Jackman will take-over from incumbent Kingsley Jones, with Jones in turn appointed to head up the Welsh Rugby Union’s exiles programme – a role which will utilise his rugby knowledge and experience to identify and recruit new talent to the professional game in Wales. The WRU will assume operational control of the Dragons and their Rodney Parade home on 1st July – after Newport RFC shareholders voted through highly publicised plans on 9th May – but, already, significant collaborative work on strategy and planning has been ongoing behind the scenes at the region, including planned upgrades to facilities and installing a new hybrid pitch.
The appointment of Jackman is the first milestone moment in a new direction for the Dragons team in direct partnership with the WRU. A former Irish international hooker Jackman played in the Connacht side coached by Warren Gatland which reached the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals in the late 90s and he arrives in Wales with the highest of recommendations from the British & Irish Lions and Wales head coach. A review of the coaching set up at the Dragons was undertaken by Stuart Davies and Martyn Phillips and involved Geraint John, Head of Professional Rugby at the WRU and Wales and British & Irish Lions Head Coach, Gatland.
“Bernard is an ideal fit for the Dragons and I know he will be work diligently and exhaustively to ensure that the set-up both on and off the pitch at Rodney Parade is of the very highest quality,” said Gatland, speaking from the current Lions tour of New Zealand.
“He will be a huge asset to the Region, he will create the right environment to allow a talented group to become even better players at the Dragons and he is someone in whom the supporters will find they can put their trust as he will work tirelessly in his pursuit of success.”
Jackman was previously head coach of Top 14 side Grenoble before leaving in March this year, he has also coached at Newbridge and Clontarf RFC and as a player has won the European Cup with Sale Sharks (2002) and both the Celtic League (2009) and the Heineken Cup (2009) with Leinster.
“It is a huge honour for me to be joining the Dragons at such an exciting time in their history,” said Jackman. “The Region is a hot bed of Welsh rugby and to join at such a significant moment in time is a challenge I relish. I can’t wait to get started and look forward to meeting the playing squad and the backroom team.
“We are obviously at the beginning of a major period of transition off the pitch, but on it we will need to quickly get down to work and reward the faith and obvious passion of our supporters throughout the region.”
WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips said: “We hope that Bernard receives a warm welcome from everyone throughout the Region, he carries the weight of hope and expectation of a group of extremely passionate rugby supporters on his shoulders but we believe he is more than equal to it.
“We are confident that he is the right man for the job and we will be providing our continued support wherever necessary.
“In Kingsley’s exiles role he will be presiding over a core part of the WRU strategy for the future, which, under the guidance of Paul Turner has already achieved some real momentum. It has become clear that the provision of full time resources is a critical factor to us achieving a clear pathway for Welsh players to our regional teams, and that this will form the foundation of our business model at the Dragons.
“This high profile appointment is a key part of those ambitions and Kingsley’s experience, networkof contacts and rugby knowledge and expertise will be an invaluable asset.”
Dragons chief executive Stuart Davies said: “We would like to put on record our gratitude for the work Kingsley Jones has put in since he became Head Coach in 2014.
“I would like to thank him personally for his diligence and professionalism during a challenging time at the Dragons, and for his recognising that this was an appropriate time for a change at the helm. He is ideally suited to his new role and I wish him well with it.
“In turn, we are delighted to announce the appointment of Bernard Jackman as head coach of the Dragons. “These are exciting times at Rodney Parade and we feel this hire is a great fit as we look to make improvements on and off the field.
“I look forward to working with Bernard as he brings a new approach and a fresh voice to an exciting new chapter at the Dragons. He has an impressive vision for the Dragons and we look forward to seeing that evolve on the field over the coming season.”
WRU head of rugby Geraint John said: “We have been determined to ensure that the rugby expertise, energy, enthusiasm and experience of Kingsley Jones is not lost to Welsh rugby and we are extremely confident that he will excel in his new role at the WRU. Kingsley has done an excellent job under self-evidently difficult circumstances at the Dragons during his four-year tenure and he has an invaluable skill-set which we intend to utilise to the maximum for the good of the game in Wales.”
Kingsley Jones, the WRU’s new Performance Exiles Manager and Coach, said: “It’s been a tough decision to step away from the role as head coach of the Dragons but both myself and the directors agree that in light of the recent change of ownership it’s the appropriate time for a change and a fresh start for both myself and the Dragons ahead of an exciting new period for our proud rugby region.
“It has been both a privilege and an honour to lead the Region that I grew up in over the last four years.
“During that period I have been lucky enough to work with so many talented players and coaches. I would like to thank each and every one of them for their support and hard work and look forward with eagerness to witnessing them reach their full potential and achieve their goals.
“On a personal level I look forward with a great deal of enthusiasm to a new challenge in a pivotal role within the WRU performance department. The opportunity to help identify, develop, coach and manage potential future regional and international players really excites me.
“There is no better feeling for a coach than seeing someone achieve their full potential knowing that you have had a positive influence on them along their journey, it’s the main reason I have coached for so long. “This is an exhilarating new chapter in my coaching career and I can’t wait to start.”