Evans to coach Wales for World Cup

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The Independent Online
The baleful recent history of Welsh rugby repeated itself last night when Alex Evans, a former assistant coach of Australia, was given even less time to prepare Wales for the imminent World Cup than Alan Davies was for the 1991 tournament.

Evans, 56, is available because he will be between this season's and next season's contracts as Cardiff's coaching director. His assistant coaches will be Mike Ruddock and Dennis John, and their collective plans - though not yet their World Cup squad - will be revealed next Thursday after they have had time to think about them.

Geoff Evans, the selector who had a public falling-out with Davies when the side to play Ireland he thought had been chosen one day was not the one announced the next, succeeds Robert Norster as manager. Evans, 51, a 1971 Lion and eminent member of the great London Welsh sides of the Sixties and Seventies, is chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union's national player-development committee.

Alex Evans and Ruddock, who will be released from a post at Swansea similar to Evans's at Cardiff, had been widely expected to take on the job. Less expected was the addition of John, 45, one of the Wales A coaches and the highly successful coach of Pontypridd, as a backs coach.

He had previously declared his non-availability for the World Cup and now that the situation has changed he becomes the clear favourite to combine with the other A-team coach, Kevin Bowring, and take Wales into next season, once Alex Evans and Ruddock have completed their assignment in June.

The new coaching team were put in place after an offer of resignation by Davies, Norster and the assistant coach, Gareth Jenkins, was accepted by the WRU general committee on Monday. They had paid the penalty not simply for the Welsh whitewash in the Five Nations' Championship, but the distressingly clueless and spiritless performance of their team.

The sole objective for the caretakers is to ensure Wales make a better fist of the World Cup than they did of the domestic championship. The Welsh pool includes New Zealand and Japan, with the second quarter-final place from the pool likely to be decided when Wales play Ireland in Johannesburg on 4 June.

Both Evans and Ruddock possess impressive credentials. The Australian was Alan Jones's deputy when the Wallabies made their Grand Slam tour of the British Isles in 1984, and since Cardiff persuaded him to come from Queensland in 1992 they have risen from the nether regions of the Heineken League First Division to their current position on top.

It is both an admission of failure and an expression of broad-mindedness that the WRU should have turned to such an outsider. Not only is he to coach Wales; yesterday he and Ruddock, who has coached Swansea to two league titles, were named among the coaches to look after a proposed lite squad of young players - called Elite Rygbi Cymru 2000 - to be developed for the 1999 World Cup.

This scheme is under the chairmanship of one ex-Wales coach, John Ryan, and involves another, John Dawes, who was sacked as the WRU's coaching director in 1990. Bowring, as head coach, and Allan Lewis of Llanelli, complete the panel.

More rugby, page 47

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