Ruddock to reveal reason for departure

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The Independent Online

Mike Ruddock, the fallen coach of Wales, yesterday ensured a continuation of the rumpus surrounding his departure by requesting a top-level meeting with union members, who he believes have yet to be given a full account of the circumstances leading to the season's most extraordinary resignation. The meeting will probably take place next week, and the hierarchy will be grateful for the opportunity to press Ruddock on widespread allegations that an outbreak of player power lay behind his demise.

Yesterday Steve Lewis, the increasingly frazzled chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, again insisted that senior players, including the captain Gareth Thomas, were entirely blameless - contrary, it must be said, to the version of events now accepted in virtually ever corner of the game in the Principality. More convincingly, Lewis also dismissed suggestions that a breakdown in contractual discussions played a part in Ruddock's decision to abandon any thought of negotiating an extension to the deal scheduled to expire at the end of the season.

The chief executive acknowledged that Ruddock had not received the majority of a win bonus awarded in respect of last season's Grand Slam achievement, but said this was at the request of the coach himself, who had wanted it paid into a pension fund, with contributions commencing later this year. Lewis added that there had been no bonus element in Ruddock's contract at the time of signing, but one had been agreed on an ex gratia basis as a reward for his success.

The Welsh are increasingly keen to secure the services of the caretaker coach, Scott Johnson, on a long-term basis. However, Johnson has family issues back home in Australia that will soon demand his full attention. Should he take up a role with the Wallabies instead, as is anticipated, the WRU will rapidly have to come up with a shortlist, given the proximity of the 2007 World Cup.

Phil Davies of Leeds will probably be a leading candidate, but there may be a move to tempt Warren Gatland, the former All Black, away from his current post in New Zealand. Gatland enjoyed a successful stint as coach of Ireland, and an even more triumphant run with the three-time English club champions Wasps.

Nathan Hines is relishing his return to the Scotland squad after declaring his availability for the Six Nations Championship game against England next weekend. The 29-year-old retired from the Test arena with 31 caps early in 2005 after a fall-out with the then head coach, Matt Williams.

However, after speaking with Williams's successor as Scotland coach, Frank Hadden, the Australia-born Perpignan lock is preparing to replace the suspended Scott Murray for the Calcutta Cup game at Murrayfield on 25 February.

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