"Shafted". That was my short but accurate description on Welsh TV on Friday night concerning the events that rocked my country last week - and I'm sticking to it. Yes, I believe Mike Ruddock was shafted. And it would take some huge revelation to convince me otherwise.
But shafted by whom? By certain employees of the Welsh Rugby Union, undoubtedly, but what about the players and any of his coaching "assistants"? Well, let's just say that a number of people should be taking one long hard look at themselves in that team-room mirror. And if I was them, I would not like what I was seeing.
It is fair enough that they might not have agreed with Ruddock's hands-off approach and/or some of his tactics. But the solution is not to undermine him by having clandestine meetings with chief executives. In the teams I played in, if we ever had a problem with the man in charge we would front up to him and find an answer together.
That palpably did not happen here, and when push came to shove, and the contract negotiations blew up, their lack of support made Ruddock's position impossible. Inevitably, he was going to go - his "family reasons" were that he has young children and plainly had to find another job - but the manner in which he was forced out was nothing short of disgraceful.
The WRU management are to blame. Steve Lewis, the chief executive, has admitted that a players' delegation asked him how they could keep Scott Johnson from moving back to Australia, and this begs a few obvious questions. What on earth is the chief executive doing discussing an assistant coach's future without the knowledge of the national coach, and how does he figure that Ruddock is not going to feel undermined?
How was Ruddock supposed to act when the WRU sent a letter to his solicitors saying that they were putting the contract negotiations on hold until after the Six Nations? Wasn't Ruddock bound to feel that he was thus "on trial", and that the players' unrest would make his situation untenable?
Of course, it did, and the haste with which the WRU booted him out of the door - in mid-tournament, not waiting until he was ready to go at the end of the Six Nations - spoke volumes. This wasn't "classic crisis management", as the WRU asserted. This was classic crisis creation.
It might be a good time to cast our minds back and remember that it was the WRU who persuaded Ruddock to take the job in the first place - he never applied for it. As Johnson had already been there for four years and had formed such a strong bond with the team, Ruddock was essentially walking in as an outsider. Perhaps he should have had a clear-out of the coaching staff and been allowed to put his own people in around him.
That, of course, is speaking with hindsight, and once the facts emerge - as I think they just might when Ruddock is granted the meeting with the WRU board he has requested - Wales must then look forward, firstly to Dublin next Sunday.
My guess is that Johnson is going to find it very odd being the No 1. Up to now he has always been a No 2, when it's easy to put your arms around the boys and be their best mate, but when the buck starts and stops with you it's entirely different. In this mess, the best thing they could do is go out at Lansdowne Road and walk the walk after talking the talk. But even if they do, and even if they win handsomely, this stench will take some time to clear yet. It will run and run, believe me.Reuse content