Jonathan Davies: Gareth or Phil - at last a real rugby choice. I'm just glad I won't be making it

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The Independent Online

Gareth Jenkins threw his hat into the ring as a candidate for the vacancy of Welsh coach on Friday, and if his Llanelli team follow that up by winning the Powergen Cup today his will be a powerful application. But supporters of his main rival, Phil Davies, will remind everyone that he won the same trophy with Leeds a year ago.

They both have very strong claims to the job. I have to declare an interest because Phil is my brother-in-law, but I can be totally objective about it. Because of our relationship I have taken a close interest in his coaching career, and I know he has learned his trade during 10 hard years in a tough environment.

Although Leeds have not had the best of seasons and Friday night's defeat by Saracens has all but condemned them to relegation, Phil's feat in building up the club from a lowly level speaks for itself, and he would benefit from working with the higher quality of players in the Welsh camp.

The credentials Gareth would bring to the job are of the highest order. Over the years Llanelli have provided the perfect advertisement for his abilities and he has personally developed many of the Welsh team. Regardless of what happens at Twickenham today, he is endorsed by a very impressive array of rugby experts from both inside and outside Wales.

Phil would bring a more modern approach to the task but Gareth is the man on the spot, and I am glad I don't have to make the decision.

It will be good to get back to a real rugby decision. The recent power struggle inside Welsh rugby has made it very difficult to concentrate on the debate about who would make the best job of guiding the team into the future. While some of the men on the selection panel are facing a vote of no confidence at an EGM soon, it casts a cloud over their deliberations.

The whole affair has reeked of confusion and mismanagement from the moment the Mike Ruddock bombshell exploded. The fact that an agreement was reached on Friday between Ruddock and the Welsh Rugby Union means that we will never know his side of what has been a puzzling and damaging story. He has had the nation's sympathy but, for reasons still unknown, he was reluctant to repay that support by throwing light on the many mysteries surrounding his departure.

It would have been so much easier all round if the whole truth had been told from the outset instead of all the ducking and diving. The public had a right to know what the hell has been going on.

Inevitably, questions have to be asked about the top men and, in particular, the chief executive, Steve Lewis. Rugby in Wales is the people's game and the union's chief executive needs not only to be efficient and businesslike behind the scenes, which Lewis appears to be, but he also has to have style and charisma in his public appearances. To some, Lewis lacks those qualities, and his abrasive manner is not endearing to everyone.

While it is true that successful men in business and commerce do not have to be popular, when it comes to running a national game trust, respect and even admiration for its leaders are vital. Teamwork is also important, and the new coach needs to know that he will have the full support of those in charge of the WRU.

As for today's game, I expect Llanelli to play much as they did in the semi-final against Bath. They showed aggression and a zest for ball-carrying, and if they get their fair share of ball against Wasps it will be a close game.

Wasps will start as favourites, but if Llanelli continue to carry the ball with gusto and take on the blitz defence they can cause an upset.

The Scarlets have improved a lot. Alix Popham and Simon Easterby have been playing particularly well, and in the centre Matthew Watkins and Regan King have real penetrating quality. King has been excellent this year and is the most creative centre in the UK. He is very good at getting his hands through the tackle and offloading.

It should be an excellent contest. Both teams play a good brand of rugby, and because they want to win everything they enter they are two kings of cup football. They deserve to be where they are because of that attitude.

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