FORMER Welsh rugby captain and one-time record cap holder Gareth Llewellyn is the new Head Coach of Thornbury Rugby Club.

The former lock, who is one of a select few to play international rugby in three decades, takes over from Tony Down for the 2009/10 season.

Llewellyn, who has achieved Level Four coaching certification, will bring great experience to Thornbury following an illustrious career which saw him play for Wales on 92 occasions between 1989 and 2004, feature in three World Cups and captain his country on seven occasions. He played for Llanharan, Neath, Harlequins, Ospreys, Narbonne and Bristol as well as the Barbarians before retiring in 2007/08 and working as assistant coach at Tonmawr where last season the Port Talbot club were runners-up in Division One West.

The capture of Llewellyn, 40, is a real coup for the Thorns, who will be looking to improve their league standing following a couple of indifferent seasons. Chairman Roy Black said: “He brings new ideas, motivation and leadership qualities to the club and, together with his impressive coaching qualifications, I’m certain he will make a big difference in the coming season.

“Thornbury have a sound player base and Gareth will have a groupwho have benefited from the work done by Tony Down and his coaching team over the last three seasons.”

Llewellyn, who is set to meet the players today, said: “Surprisingly for some, I’ve been primarily coaching the backs at Tonmawr while also having some involvement with the forwards and the club’s defence play.”

“I see this as the next step in my coaching career where I will be am to have a big influence on the whole action on the pitch.

“Thornbury may have finished in the bottom half of the table last season but there were a number of close games. I will be meeting the players and asking why we can’t win the league.”

Western Counties North is a tough league, which next season will be increased from 12 to 14 clubs, and there will be no easy games.

However, the arrival of Llewellyn, together with the appointment of new skipper Mike Sander, sees the start of a new era for Thornbury.

Thornbury, who ended the four-year unbeaten league record of Hartpury College last season, interviewed extensively with Llewellyn heading an impressive list of applicants. He will work with familiar faces at Thornbury as former Bristol team-mates Darren Crompton and David Blaney are among the coaching team.