Kevin Bowring yesterday picked up the poisoned chalice as the new, pounds 50,000- a-year Wales coach and ran with it with a fine disregard for the baleful fate of all his recent predecessors. In the end the Wales A coach and Dennis John, coach of Pontypridd, were the only candidates to be interviewed.
Not that Bowring, whose contract is for four years - ending at the 1999 World Cup - saw it in such negative terms when he was introduced at Cardiff Arms Park yesterday, 247 days after the resignation of Alan Davies. But he is well aware of the insecurity of the job as it passed through Tony Gray, John Ryan, Ron Waldron, Davies and Alex Evans since 1988 and knows, too, of the abuse to which Evans has lately been subjected.
All Bowring needs to avoid such a fate is to produce a successful team. "I appreciate it hasn't been the safest job in the past and we need a structure more supportive of the national team and the national coach," he said.
Bowring, 41, a hard-working flanker, began his playing career at home with Neath but after studying at Borough Road College, the eminent rugby academy down the road from Twickenham, had 350 games over nine seasons with London Welsh.
Bowring led them in three seasons and also captained Middlesex but never achieved any form of Welsh representative recognition until he became the Under-20s' coach in 1989. His time coaching Wales A - only four defeats in 13 games and a much-admired style of play - was enough for him to be entrusted with the senior side for the Fiji match three weeks ago when the original caretaker, Alex Evans, was recovering from a shoulder operation.
The new coach will cease his present job as director of physical education and head of games at Clifton College at the end of term and take up his new post next month. When the Welsh 's four-man appointments' panel conducted the interviews the competition had been drastically reduced by the withdrawal of both Clive Griffiths and Pierre Villepreux.
Griffiths was unwilling to upset Warrington rugby league club, his current employers, while a transport strike in France would have meant Villepreux could not have reached Cardiff even if he had wanted to. Villepreux has, however, offered his services as a consultant and remains a possibility for the pounds 80,000-a-year post of WRU rugby director which has attracted 48 applications.
The narrow victory over the Fijians gave Bowring an instant insight into a job in which successive occupants have become the Aunt Sallys of Welsh rugby. In giving up infinitely more security at a famous public school where his wife also teaches, he knows he is taking a risk.
"The sheer excitement of the challenge was why I accepted," he said. "There is a job to be done and a lot of work, and we need a great deal of planning to achieve our aims. But there are some exciting youngsters in the squad and their determination and enthusiasm to get back to the top are infectious."Reuse content