Wales wail as Evans heads home

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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

Welsh rugby, already in a shambolic state, was thrown into further disarray yesterday with the announcement that the national caretaker-coach, Alex Evans, is to return to his native Australia to take up the post of coaching director with the Australian .

Evans was expected to have been offered an identical post in Wales, although whether he would have accepted is another matter, but his departure leaves the Welsh with the task of finding a suitable substitute. The former Scotland and British Lions coach, Ian McGeechan, currently director of rugby at Second Division Northampton, has been consistently linked with the job, but last night he insisted: "I would not be interested in the job. It would be quite difficult to reconcile all I have done with Scotland as a player and a coach with trying to do the same for Wales."

The feeling in Wales is that if the WRU cannot tempt McGeechan then they must look overseas, and the names of the former New Zealand coach, John Hart, and Pierre Villepreux, the former French international, have been prominent on the rumour mill in the Principality. Schoolmaster Kevin Bowring, who is filling in for Evans while he recovers from a shoulder operation, is another front-runner.

Evans is under contract with Cardiff until the end of the season as their paid director of coaching, but the ARU clearly expect him to drop everything. Spokesman Greg Thomas said yesterday: "Alex Evans is going to be working closely with the new Australia coach, Greg Smith, who starts in November, so we assume that he will be stepping down from his positions in Wales." Last night the Cardiff chief executive, Gareth Davies, said the club would not stand in Evans' way.

In his four years at Cardiff, Evans has pulled the club up from relegation candidates to Heineken League champions, and he has been standing in as Wales coach since the World Cup in the summer. Evans cited family reasons for wanting to return to Australia. "It was not an easy decision, but one I had to take for the sake of my family," he said.

Jason Leonard, who has not played this season because of a shoulder injury, is on the brink of leading Harlequins for the first time at Gloucester tomorrow. He underwent a rigorous session at The Stoop last night, and provided there is no reaction today, he will play. That would please the England manager, Jack Rowell, who had all but given up hope of the loosehead prop being fit to face South Africa at Twickenham next month.

London Scottish have confirmed that they have been sent a video showing an incident during their Second Division match against Blackheath in which their stand-off, John Steele, ended up with a fractured jaw.

Jonah Lomu is the star attraction in a testimonial match between an International Select XV and a British Isles XV, in aid of the Wales and Llanelli wing, Ieuan Evans, at Stradey Park on 21 November.