Damian Welch: New Titans Forward Coach

Article published:
June 12, 2024

Taunton Titans have signalled their intention to return to National League One at the first attempt in recent weeks by securing the signatures of a core group of key players. Now, that intent is underlined with the unveiling of the team’s new Forwards Coach, Damian Welch.


It is a mouth-watering appointment with Welch bringing many years’ experience of rugby in the upper echelons of the game both at Exeter Chiefs in the English Premiership and in Wales where he studied and played for Pontypridd, Cardiff RFC, Cardiff Blues and Scarlets. Since retiring from playing, the 41-year-old former lock forward has had the Head Coach role at Plymouth Albion and, more recently, at University of Exeter who will be National Two West opponents this coming season.


Born in Reading, Welch only took the sport up when he went to Cardiff University. A friend persuaded him to fill in when they were low on numbers for a game. He loved it and ended up playing in the First XV which led to his move into Welsh club rugby where he was mixing with the likes of Stephen Jones and Matthew Rees, both of whom were British and Irish Lions. His performances brought him onto the radar of Rob Baxter at Exeter and, when Damian’s wife took a job in Bristol, the time was right for them to move across the bridge.


“I was at Exeter for the best years of my career, not only in terms of my own rugby but the standard, the achievements, the social side of the rugby and the integration of the squad,” says Welch of his introduction to rugby in the South-West of England. “Exeter was the highlight of my career and I had coached Exeter Uni with Haydn Thomas and Keith Fleming whilst I was at Chiefs.” Tony and Damian were not playing colleagues at Sandy Park but they did coach alongside one another at the University of Exeter. “It was many years ago,” Tony Yapp recalls but proof of the success of their combination is, “We actually won a BUCS Final.”


In 2015/16 the university won BUCS at Twickenham with a special side, led by (former Titan and current Scotland International) Sam Skinner. As Tony Yapp was also involved with the coaching, it meant that Damian Welch was a name already in the Titans Head Coach’s contact list long before an opening arose at Veritas Park.


After playing he moved into coaching at Plymouth Albion where, as Head Coach, he was particularly responsible for Forwards and Defence. It was, he admits, a ‘steep learning curve’, learning to run the off-pitch team as well as the squad of players. It should, however, stand Titans in good stead to have a deputy with Head Coach experience for when Tony Yapp’s Saturday commitments with Blundell’s School take him away from the Titans pre-Christmas.


That three-year stint has been followed by a return to the University of Exeter for a couple of years until Tony Yapp’s phone call. The opportunity seems to have come at just the right moment for Welch. He and his wife, still Bristol-based, have recently welcomed their first child – a son –and he has been working for a rugby mate’s Care Homes facility on the business side of things. Working at a club like Taunton will allow him to keep his hand in with coaching the sport he loves whilst working for someone who appreciates his involvement in rugby will mean he is able to work around his coaching commitments.


So, why did the Forwards Coach role for Titans appeal?


“I’ve had a lot of respect for Tony for a long time,” he says. “But Taunton RFC is somewhere I’ve long admired too. The facilities, the playing standards, the ethos, the ground, the warmth, the atmosphere… When the opportunity came up it made a lot of sense really.”


Encouragingly, Welch has noticed that it is a family club and that a lot of youngsters watch the Titans of a Saturday. He speaks of wanting to bring his son down to a club like that in due course. Privately, I think he should wait and see the incredible numbers of juniors who come to train and play on Sundays but that is a conversation for another day.


The words Welch repeatedly uses to describe his working relationship with Yapp are respect, trust and opportunity. That they already know one another is an advantage as they can “hit the ground running” and he is excited about the challenge of trying to take Titans back into National One at the first time of asking. He doesn’t, he is keen to point out, have the sort of ego that means he needs to be in charge.


For his part, Tony Yapp is delighted to have such an experienced man alongside him for the first season back in National Two. “We’re very fortunate to bring Damian on board with us as our forwards coach. He’s a line-out specialist and he knows the league very, very well having coached Exeter Uni last year so from my point of view he’s going to bring a lot to us. He’s a very good forwards coach with a lot of experience as a coach and as a player.”

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Article published by:

Richard Kitzinger


Rugby fan and Taunton resident, Richard loves watching Titans and creates written content for the rugby club.