Jonathan Davies: Wales shamed by the Jenkins shambles

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The Independent Online

To think we used to moan about the bungling amateurs who ran the Welsh Rugby Union for over 100 years. Give the job to professionals, we used to cry. Now we've got professionals running the game and to our horror they're proving capable of committing even more atrocities than the old lot.

To think we used to moan about the bungling amateurs who ran the Welsh Rugby Union for over 100 years. Give the job to professionals, we used to cry. Now we've got professionals running the game and to our horror they're proving capable of committing even more atrocities than the old lot.

Not that I'm including Mike Ruddock in that comment. His appointment as Welsh coach is far from an atrocity. He is an excellent coach and a good man but it hardly helps his initiation that it should come as the result of a shambolic selection procedure that leaves many awkward questions to be answered.

And the first one is quite simple - if Ruddock was the ideal man for the job last Thursday, why wasn't he the ideal man for the job three weeks ago? At that time, he had announced that he wasn't applying for the post and endorsed Llanelli's coach, Gareth Jenkins, as the best man for the job.

Then followed weeks of intense media coverage of the neck-and-neck race between Jenkins and Mark Evans, the Harlequins chief executive. It was a very public race because details of their various interviews were leaked to the press from sources that had to be close to the selection panel. It was as if they were being played off against each other and I have a strong suspicion that Evans was used to try to get Jenkins to tone down the conditions of his employment.

Anyone who has had anything to do with Jenkins in rugby is aware of his abilities and the forthright way he puts forward his ideas. No man on this planet is better placed to know the kind of structural framework that Welsh rugby requires in order to progress. He is the most successful Welsh club coach of modern times and no one has a closer or more intimate knowledge of the Welsh rugby character.

What's more, he can put his knowledge to work in an inspirational way. He is a visionary and what he was offering was a revolutionary approach. I firmly believe that he could achieve in Wales what Clive Woodward has achieved in England.

I have spoken to many rugby people from other countries who had actually been looking forward to seeing him restore Wales to the high status they once occupied in world rugby.

Unfortunately, his vision appeared to be too vivid for the selection panel. Perhaps there were too many egos who couldn't bear the thought of taking a back seat to such a forceful coach.

I understand that two of the main stumbling blocks with Jenkins concerned his salary and the retention of Steve Hansen's backroom staff. Since Jenkins was offered around half of the £208,000 Hansen is receiving I'm not surprised it was a problem - or are Welshmen only worth half-price? As for the back-room, it should not be a shock that a new coach would want to create his own.

As soon as Graham Henry took over the New Zealand job he appointed Hansen and Northampton's Wayne Smith as his assistants.

Hansen himself chose his own aides in Wales. When David Moffett took over the WRU he had a big clear-out, as do most new bosses. Why is the Welsh coach the only one not allowed the use of a new broom? We are told that the WRU want assistants Scott Johnson and Andrew Hoare to stay because they are so popular with the players and that they want continuity. Continuity of what? The worst record in Six Nations history?

It seems that Johnson and Hansen operate a "good cop-bad cop" routine so Johnson's popularity is no surprise but it is very difficult to see what technical improvements have been made in the Welsh team over the past two years. It is certainly not reflected on the field.

The only change to Hansen's back-room has been the departure of the defensive coach Clive Griffiths before the start of the Six Nations. Apparently, he didn't get on with his colleagues. Since he left there has been a severe reduction in the defensive efficiency of the Welsh team. Ruddock has already announced his intention of bringing Griffiths back, so that will be an interesting reunion.

I hope Mike accepts that the basis of our outcry is not directed at him but at the system. I trust that he will come into the job with a firm purpose and the intention of stamping his own authority on the task ahead. He deserves the support and good wishes of everyone.

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