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Last Updated: Friday, 17 February 2006, 11:57 GMT
Wales chief denies Ruddock coup
WRU chief Steve Lewis says the pressure got to Mike Ruddock
WRU chief Steve Lewis says the pressure got to Mike Ruddock
Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Steve Lewis has denied reports he was set to sack Mike Ruddock as Wales coach at the request of senior players.

A report in the Daily Telegraph on Friday claimed this was the reason behind Ruddock's departure on Tuesday.

"That is absolute nonsense, there was no discussion about Mike's coaching abilities," Lewis said.

Lewis also said that there was no dispute over a sum of money owed to Ruddock as reported in the Times.

The Times said 20,000 owed to Ruddock for last season's Grand Slam success - Wales' first in 27 years - is part of a severance package being negotiated by Ruddock and his lawyers.

Lewis said that under the terms of Ruddock's contract he was "not entitled to any performance bonus" and that it was the WRU's discretion to award bonuses to management.

But Lewis said a discretionary sum of 18,000 would be paid into a pension plan for the former coach.

At no time has the WRU sought to remove Mike Ruddock
WRU chief executive Steve Lewis

"The Telegraph starts off with a quite inaccurate piece of reporting, saying I was on my way to ask Mike Ruddock to resign on Tuesday - that is absolute nonsense," Lewis said.

"Mike dropped the bombshell on me that he'd decided to withdraw from contract negotiations at the end of the current season.

"At no time has the WRU sought to remove Mike Ruddock.

"His decision to announce that he was no longer interested in the job was Mike's, no pressure from the Union at any time and no desire to lose Mike Ruddock's services."

Lewis also said the WRU would have backed Ruddock if he had wanted to appoint his own coaches, rather than inherit the likes of skills coach Scott Johnson.

The Australian is a firm favourite of the players and has now taken over as caretaker Wales coach until at least the end of the Six Nations.

But former Wales and Lions prop Ian Stephens, who worked closely with Ruddock when Wales had an A development team, maintains that Ruddock was put in an impossible situation.

"He didn't have the luxury of putting his own people in place around him and... if there was any problems or pressure the team manager (Alan Phillips) should have alleviated this and nipped it in the bud," Stephens said.

"There's so many half-truths coming out from the Union, you can only surmise it's a personality clash with the Union and some of the players.

"I think they need to look at themselves, David Pickering (the WRU chairman), Steve Lewis and the rest of the Welsh Rugby Union.

"If the result goes against us in Ireland somebody should resign."

The Times also quoted a letter dated 8 February sent to Ruddock's solicitors, which said the WRU was suspending negotiations over a new contract until after the Six Nations because it would be a "major distraction".

But Lewis maintains that a new contract had been on the table since last July and it was legal points introduced by Ruddock's representatives that had delayed the situation.

"From that time on Mike has chosen not to sign the contract and other terms have been introduced, some of which our legal team could accept, some which they couldn't," Lewis said

"Having been put back into a situation of renegotiation, we didn't feel it was appropriate to conduct contract negotiations during the Six Nations."

Lewis said that after the 41-3 loss to New Zealand at the beginning of November, Ruddock allegedly told the WRU he "found the pressure too much and he wouldn't be seeking to renew his contract".

But Ruddock then changed his mind at the end of the month, after Wales beat Australia for the first time since 1987, Lewis said.

Lewis believes that pressure had become too much for Ruddock by the time the Six Nations started, even though Wales bounced back from an opening loss in England to beat Scotland.

"He was clearly under pressure. If we'd lost to Ireland (on 26 February) the pressure would have become intolerable to Mike and that would have affected team preparations for the rest of the Six Nations," Lewis said.

"Mike wouldn't take the opportunity to announce the decision (to not renew his contract) until after the Six Nations and I felt the job had clearly become a burden to Mike.

"The situation we had to deal with in the (Tuesday) afternoon... was my meeting (with Ruddock) took place at 1 o'clock and Mike had already informed the press at 12 o'clock.

"That gave me no opportunity to persuade Mike to stay."

One member of the Wales team management appointed by Ruddock is defence coach Clive Griffiths, brought back into the fold after being marginalised under former coach Steve Hansen.

But the Times reports that Griffiths is also likely to leave the Wales set-up after the Six Nations.

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