Ospreys' assistant coach Gruff Rees has confirmed that he will leave the Welsh region at the end of the season, bringing to an end an almost 13-year association with the region.
Appointed backs coach in February 2012, following a six-month stint in Italy alongside Rowland Phillips at Aironi, Rees had previously served the Ospreys as Welsh Rugby Union Academy skills coach before also taking responsibility for skills development within the senior squad prior to working alongside Ospreys' head coach Steve Tandy.
Speaking about his decision to move on to pastures new when his current contract expires, Rees explained: “I’ve been talking to Steve (Tandy) since last year about the future direction of the Ospreys, about what this group needs and about my own hopes and aspirations, even when we were in the middle of a positive run of performances and results.
“I’m very aware that I’ve been in this environment for a long time and have been on the field talking to some of the squad for 10 years or more, particularly those I worked with when they were coming through on the development pathway. That’s a long time for them to be hearing my voice and for me to be talking to the same people.
“The key questions were: what does this squad need to grow and develop, what do Steve and the rest of the coaches need to continue the evolution of the Ospreys and, myself, what do I need? We are an open and honest group of coaches and our discussions over the last 12 to 18 months reflected that. I believe that this is the right call for all parties, allowing Steve to bring in a fresh voice and for me to take on a new challenge that will stretch me and allow me to continue developing."
Tandy paid tribute to Rees, thanking him for his service to the Ospreys for more than a decade.
“Gruff has been amazing in and around the Ospreys' environment for so long and has contributed immensely to the cause,” he said.
“He’s played a huge part in the development of so many players who have gone on to represent the Ospreys, Wales and the Lions, and has been immense in terms of the support he has given me personally.
“We’ve been talking for a long time about the future. We’ve spoken frankly about the situation, been completely honest about the expectations and what the best next step for everybody is.
“He’ll be missed by everyone at the region when he leaves but, understandably, he is entirely committed to ensuring that between now and the end of the season he does all he can to help us improve on our current fortunes before moving on to his next challenge.”
Rees insists that the Ospreys will remain close to his heart in the future having given so much to the region’s cause.
“The years have absolutely flown by and it’s only natural that I have strong ties within the region now," he added.
"I’m really excited about the future of the Ospreys, with some good signings coming in for next season and the young talent coming through, just as I’m excited about the next opportunity to continue my own development.
“For now I'm firmly committed to helping improve our fortunes, starting with an exciting back-to-back Euro challenge and then going into the local derbies. I’m proud of the small part I’ve had in developing regional and national players, and for the relative success we’ve enjoyed here over the years.”
Photo credit: The Ospreys' official website