Thu, Feb 16, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Ruddock suddenly resigns position as Wales rugby coach

AP , CARDIFF, WALES

Mike Ruddock, who coached Wales to its first Six Nations Grand Slam for 27 years last season, stunned rugby fans on Tuesday by resigning.

Ruddock cited family reasons for quitting when he appeared at a hastily arranged news conference at Millennium Stadium.

The shock move came in the middle of Wales' defense of its Six Nations title. The Welsh Rugby Union announced that skills coach Scott Johnson, an Australian, will take over the campaign.

Wales was heavily beaten 47-13 by England in its first game but responded with a 28-18 victory over Scotland on Sunday and there were no signs then that Ruddock was about to quit.

"I can confirm I resigned today. It is for family reasons," Ruddock told reporters in what appeared to be a prepared statement.

"On that basis, I have decided to withdraw from contract talks to take Wales to the 2007 World Cup in France. This has been a tough decision to make but I have decided to put my family first.

"What I have found during my two years as coach is that the position is more than a job. That has meant I have spent long periods away from my family, in camp and overseas. As a consequence, I felt the intense buildup to next year's World Cup would mean more time away from my family. That is something, on reflection, I would like to avoid."

Ruddock succeeded New Zealander Steve Hansen in March 2004, and was in charge for 20 tests, of which Wales won 13, including a first victory over Australia for 18 years last November.

"Mike informed me today that he will not be seeking to extend his contract as Wales national coach," said WRU chief executive Steve Lewis.

"His announcement, and the timing of it, has obviously come as a shock and will be a blow to Welsh rugby as a whole."

Ruddock's sudden departure was greeted with skepticism by former Wales captain Ieuan Evans.

"Its strange and it's baffling that it is now," Evans told BBC Wales. "We are not quite sure of the reasons behind it. Was anyone unhappy? Was he unhappy? Was the union unhappy about something that has happened?

"We are not sure about the issues behind this and obviously there are issues behind this."

Evans saluted the work done by Ruddock, however.

"He has empowered the players, which is a big step," the former winger said. "The foundation was laid by Steve Hansen to get the basics right, but Mike Ruddock has given them the freedom to express themselves.

"But last season Wales definitely also improved in the tight, so Mike must take credit for that."

While Hansen moved on to become one of Graham Henry's coaching team with New Zealand, Ruddock built on the good work of his predecessor and started last season's Grand Slam streak with an 11-9 victory over England at Millennium Stadium.

Encouraging Wales to play adventurous, open rugby, Ruddock also instilled new confidence in a team which had repeatedly failed to bring back past glories.

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