Rugby Union: Ring's circular career move

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The Independent Online
IN KEEPING with a maverick reputation, Mark Ring yesterday quit Cardiff, the Heineken League leaders, for Pontypool, who are seven places and 14 points behind. 'You can hardly call it a career move,' the former Wales centre commented.

Quite right, too: Cardiff are prospective champions whereas Pontypool, with whom Ring spent the 1987-88 season, are only five points above a relegation place. Ring, 30, variously cited 'personal reasons' and '101 reasons' for his departure but there has evidently been a major falling-out with Cardiff's coaching regime headed by the Australian, Alex Evans.

In fact, Ring has always been highly complimentary about Evans's influence at the Arms Park though, given that Cardiff finished ninth last season, it would have been difficult to do otherwise. Ring has played in 12 of Cardiff's 13 First Division fixtures, 11 at centre and one at stand-off, where he intends playing for Pontypool.

His disillusionment may go back to his defeat for the club captaincy by his co-centre Mike Hall. 'It's an instinctive thing,' Ring said. 'My general feelings were to go elsewhere, where I would be highly thought of and appreciated.'

During his previous season with Pontypool, Ring formed a prodigious partnership with David Bishop, who scored 35 tries while Ring amassed 357 points as the club won the old Merit Table and reached the Schweppes Cup semi- final, losing only two matches all season. Bishop then went to rugby league and Ring back to Cardiff.

The last of his 32 caps came during the 1991 World Cup, but although he then retired from international rugby he still played for East Wales in the recent inaugural match against West Wales. Ring will now link up with another Wales scrum-half, Chris Bridges, who joined Pontypool from Neath.

Ring knows that his return to Pontypool will be temporary. Doctors have already instructed him to cease playing at the end of next season because of osteo-arthritis in the knee which has troubled him for much of his career. Then he intends taking up coaching.

Ieuan Evans, the Wales captain, yesterday became the second wing casualty during the Welsh training camp in Lanzarote when he aggravated a torn hamstring. Nigel Walker has an ankle injury and will not train until tomorrow. Jim Staples has been ruled out of the Irish team to play Scotland on Saturday week with strained knee ligaments.

Mark Pugh, the South Wales Police captain and former Wales squad prop, has been given an 18- week ban following his sending- off for fighting against Bridgend last month.