News article – Style D 2565
15th February 2006 By Munster Rugby
Less than 24 hours after Alan Gaffney had been officially informed that his services were no longer required by the ARU, Wales coach Mike Ruddock tendered his resignation as Welsh national coach.
Less than 24 hours after Alan Gaffney had been officially informed by the Australian Rugby Union that his services as Wallaby assistant (backs) coach were no longer required, Wales coach Mike Ruddock tendered his resignation as Welsh national coach with immediate effect.
Given that Gaffney had been invited onto the Wallaby ticket by the now deposed Eddie Jones, and given the politics that pertain in these circumstances, it was perhaps unsurprising that his services were dispensed with but Ruddock’s resignation has come as huge shock in rugby circles.
Ruddock took over when Steve Hansen returned to New Zealand to join up with Graham Henry with the All Blacks and he guided Wales to their first Grand Slam title for 27 years. He was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list for his services to Welsh rugby.
As proud a Welshman as one could ever find, his commitment to the national cause has never been in doubt but was perhaps highlighted by his decision not to tour with the Lions, instead opting to travel to Argentina with the Welsh Under 21s. He felt the future of Welsh rugby was best served by his presence in Mendoza rather than trawling himself around New Zealand.
He cited ‘family reasons’ for his resignation but given that he has been involved in coaching almost all his adult life, it seems that media speculation that the WRU and perhaps some players and possibly the newly installed caretaker coach may have played their part might have some credence.
The WRU had not completed their contract negotiation with Ruddock while Scott Johnson is reported as being ‘guarded in his praise of the coach in an article by respected Welsh journalist Andy Howell in today’s Western Mail.
When asked for his assessment of Ruddock, Johnson – who is believed to have been offered a role with the Wallabies – responded tersely, “He’s a good coach.”
Pressed further, he added snappily, “He’s a great coach. Is that OK.”
Then the Aussie added, “Mike Ruddock is a wonderful human being and a great coach.”
There is talk that senior players had lost faith in Ruddock although Michael Owen and Gareth Thomas have come out in support, Thomas quoted as saying,
“The team are devastated at Mike’s decision. I respect him as a man and as a coach, he is a brilliant coach and a brilliant person.
“He played a vital part in the Grand Slam last year and we all now support him and his decision and wish him well in whatever he decides to do in the future.”
If that is the case and Thomas has always been seen as an honest broker, then the cold wind of change blew from the corridors of the WRU.
Writing in today’s Guardian, Robert Kitson says, ” To anyone living outside Wales the news of Mike Ruddock’s departure as national coach will defy logic. Up and down the valleys this will probably come as slightly less of a surprise, if only because Welsh rugby has long specialised in tearing itself apart without much outside help. Ruddock may have been the coach who put Wales back in touch with their natural instincts. He may have been the man who made a whole country feel better about themselves.
“To anyone living outside Wales the news of Mike Ruddock’s departure as national coach will defy logic. How could the man who steered his country to their first grand slam in 27 years be gone, apparently unlamented by his players, less than 11 months later? Short of Gavin Henson retiring with immediate effect, the sense of shock could hardly be greater.
“Up and down the valleys this will probably come as slightly less of a surprise, if only because Welsh rugby has long specialised in tearing itself apart without much outside help. Ruddock may have been the coach who put Wales back in touch with their natural instincts. He may have been the man who made a whole country feel better about themselves.
“But in Welsh rugby the bigger picture still has a tendency to get lost in a red mist of petty politicking and backbiting.
“For a Welshman as proud and patriotic as Ruddock, the sense of personal and professional hurt – setting aside the “family reasons” he offered as an explanation yesterday – must be immense.”
It was not so very long ago that a friend jokingly asked Mike Ruddock what did OBE stand for.
” I’m not entirely sure,” came the reply, ” maybe Out By Easter.”
Sadly, Ruddock’s words were prophetic.