Jonathan Davies: Ruddock finds his man, but what a way to do it

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Sometimes there are so many voices sounding off on a rugby field it is hard for the captain to make himself heard. But the good captains are rarely those with the loudest voices, or even those with a lot to say.

Sometimes there are so many voices sounding off on a rugby field it is hard for the captain to make himself heard. But the good captains are rarely those with the loudest voices, or even those with a lot to say.

That's why I found it odd that the Wales coach, Mike Ruddock, has just conducted a series of interviews for the job of Welsh captain. I don't know whether this was his idea or whether the bureaucrats have taken over Welsh rugby, but I do know that if you had dressed Martin Johnson in his best suit and stuck him in front of an interviewing panel he probably would not be down in history as one of England's best-ever captains.

Then again, so many things have changed in rugby that we shouldn't be surprised at anything. And I certainly don't have any quarrel with Ruddock's choice of Gareth Thomas to skipper Wales. He is a world-class player, and carries a big presence on the pitch.

He has broken Ieuan Evans's all-time try record and has matured impressively. Now that he is playing for the French club Toulouse we can look for further improvement, and I hope that the distance between club and country will not affect his new status.

The former captain, Colin Charvis, is to be the deputy, and I trust he takes the disappointment of losing the job philosophically. He is another world-class player and consistently the best Welsh forward. Everything he does on the field he does well; he led the team from the front and was well respected for it.

He is a laid-back character, and probably laid back too far when he carped about speaking to the media when Wales were in Argentina earlier in the year. It was a mistake. As an international captain you have a clear responsibility to speak on behalf of the team, and the nation has a right to hear what you say. The row did not put him off his game, but I doubt if it earned him any brownie points with the WRU. Since his move to Newcastle in the summer he has carried on playing some excellent rugby, and Rob Andrew supported his case to stay as Welsh captain. Andrews compared Charvis with Johnson in that he doesn't say much, but when he does players tend to listen.

In appointing Thomas in his place, perhaps there was an element of a new coach wanting to put a fresh stamp on the team. Ruddock inherited a squad and more or less the same coaching staff, so he maybe he wanted to lay down his own mark when it came to the captaincy. He says that the interviewing process was very helpful in making his decision. Thomas has captained Bridgend and the Celtic Warriors, and Ruddock sought confirmation from his former club coaches that he had the right qualities.

Ruddock maintains that the job is a highly prized and sought-after role and there had been an unprecedented level of enthusiasm for it. Apart from Thomas and Charvis, Ruddock also interviewed Martyn Williams and one or two of the younger players. There have been times when players have refused the captaincy when it has been offered to them. At least Ruddock is now aware of who is most interested in the job, and he will have future prospects in mind.

As for the captaincy moving from the forwards to the backs, I don't think it makes much difference. As a back-row man, Charvis would always be in the thick of the action, and some say a captain benefits from that. Thomas will probably be playing full-back, where he can see the bigger picture and be better placed to read the game and organise his defence.

When I think of all the captains I played under, I find it difficult to nominate the best because they were all so different. Terry Holmes in union and Ellery Hanley in league were similar in certain ways because they said little and led from the front. Bleddyn Bowen was very quietly spoken, but he led Wales to the Triple Crown in 1988.

I thoroughly enjoyed being captain, but I was far more vocal than most. In fact, I was always vocal whether I was captain or not.

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