WARRIORS have appointed former Ireland centre Jonny Bell as the club’s new defence coach.
Bell will arrive at Sixways ahead of the 2021/22 season from Glasgow Warriors where he is currently Attack Coach.
Bell’s arrival will see Senior Assistant Coach Mark Jones, who joined Warriors as Defence Coach in January, take up new responsibilities as Attack and Backs Coach as successor to Matt Sherratt who will join Cardiff Blues at the end of the current season.
Bell, 47, will return to the Gallagher Premiership having spent five seasons as Gloucester’s Defence Coach and he will link up again with Warriors’ Director of Rugby Alan Solomons who was his coach at Ulster during a successful spell between 2001 and 2004.
“We are really pleased to have Jonny join our coaching staff,” Solomons said.
“He is the ideal fit and I have no doubt that he will have good synergy with our other coaches and that they will all be well aligned, which is so critical to success.
“I was privileged to coach Jonny in the years that I was with Ulster. He was an outstanding inside centre with defence at the heart of his game. He was also a terrific team man, who was popular and highly respected by all.
“It was clear to me, even back then, that he would go on to be an outstanding defence coach and he most certainly has. He did a tremendous job with Gloucester and the Premiership experience he gained will be invaluable to us.
“We have always remained in touch and on a personal level I am delighted to be working with him again.
“With Jonny taking the defence, Mark will focus on attack, for which he has previous coaching experience. All in all, we will have an exceptionally strong group of coaches, which, with the squad we have assembled, bodes well for next season.”
Bell won 36 international caps between 1994 and 2003 and played for Ulster from 1993 to 2005, broken by a one-season stint with Northampton Saints in 1997/98.
He moved into coaching, initially as Ulster’s Elite Player Development Officer, and had four seasons as Assistant Coach at Ravenhill before he joined Gloucester in 2015 and Glasgow last summer.
“I am excited by the opportunity to return to the Gallagher Premiership and work alongside Alan Solomons and Jonathan Thomas,” Bell said.
“Solly is someone I have known and respected for over 20 years since he coached me at Ulster and I was impressed by his passion and vision for Worcester Warriors..
“Worcester Warriors is a great club and I know first-hand from my experiences with Gloucester how determined they are to achieve success and I can’t wait to add value and experience to what Solly, JT and the other coaches have started.
“I would like to thank Danny Wilson, my fellow coaches and everyone at Glasgow Warriors for their friendship and support in what has been a difficult decision to make.
“My young family have struggled to settle in Glasgow and coming back down to the South West of England is an opportunity to bring them back to a place they now regard as home.”
Bell’s glittering CV includes almost 100 appearances for Ulster and a Man of the Match Award in their 1999 Heineken Cup victory over Colomiers in Dublin and his playing career overlapped with that of Warriors Head Coach Thomas.
“With Matt Sherratt leaving we needed to find a quality coach and a quality person,” Thomas said.
“We had a lot of interest and a lot of quality people and good candidates out there. But when we looked at what was the best fit for us and after we had spoken to Jonny we felt that he was the perfect fit.
“He’s familiar with the area, he’s got proven experience in the Premiership, Gloucester had a really good defence when he was there and he’s renowned throughout the game as a quality defence coach.
“More than that, everyone in the game speaks very highly of Jonny. Everyone knows what a quality person and team man he is.
“Mark Jones has coached both attack and defence and when we spoke to him about it he was really keen to take on the attack role.
“Mark has real ability as an attack coach so we have a good balance and alignment in the coaching team.”