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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 February 2006, 11:33 GMT
Ruddock & players deny Wales rift
Wales captain Gareth Thomas
Thomas says Mike Ruddock's decision must be respected
Mike Ruddock and Wales captain Gareth Thomas have denied accusations that player unrest led to Ruddock's shock departure as coach on Tuesday.

Ruddock departed citing family reasons and, asked by BBC Radio Five Live whether unrest led to his decision, he said: "Not as far as I am aware."

Thomas told the BBC: "As players we're devastated that Mike has left.

"Even though he's left we still respect him as much now as when he was coach - whatever Mike said went."

Ruddock said he had spoken to Thomas and vice-captain Michael Owen and added "everybody is respectful of everyone else right across the board".

And Owen added: "We were behind Mike, definitely. We've had a good working relationship with Mike."

Wales skills coach Scott Johnson has taken over as caretaker head coach, with ex-Wales hooker Robin McBryde joining the management team as forwards coach.

Training has been as good as I can remember
Wales vice-captain Michael Owen

Johnson also denied that his boss' departure had been precipitated by the players flexing their muscles, saying: "I think I'd be the first to know if that was the case."

Johnson is credited with being the major force behind the expansive game that took Wales to the Grand Slam last season.

But Thomas said there was also plenty of input on the training field from the players and Ruddock himself.

"The players in the Wales team have got a lot to say about what goes on, but nobody has more of a say than the coach and everybody respects the coach," Thomas added.

"We all respect Mike as a coach and it's important that we respect his decision.

"Mike is a very family-orientated man and he is a very open and honest man.

"He played a vital part in the Grand Slam last year and we all now support him and his decision and wish him well in whatever he decides to do in the future."

Owen added: "Training has been as good as I can remember from a forward's point of view.

"Whenever problems have arisen we've told him what they are and tried to sort them out - I don't think it's a factor in his decision."

And WRU boss Steve Lewis said: "I received no documentation from any player regarding dissatisfaction with Mike Ruddock and I've not had any meetings with any players.

We may be in for a tough time now but, with Scott Johnson in charge, we feel we can come through it
Wales captain Gareth Thomas

"I'm not aware of any unease in the camp about Mike's coaching. If they don't talk to me they don't talk to other WRU leaders."

Wales lost their opening match of this season's Six Nations, but bounced back last weekend to get back on track with victory over Scotland.

Thomas, who scored two tries against the Scots, admitted the timing of Ruddock's departure does not help their championship campaign.

"It's not ideal but as players we're professional enough to realise we've got three big games left," Thomas said.

"And what better way to thank Mike for everything he's done for us than going out and winning.

"As for Scott Johnson, everyone knows what Scott means to the players.

"He has been with us for a long time now, the players know what he expects of them and there is nothing new in that respect.

"Scott has been with us through many ups and downs and we may be in for a tough time now but, with him in charge, we feel we can come through it.

"Mike felt 100% that we should play with Welsh pride and passion and if Jonno is in charge, I know we will carry on playing that Welsh way."

Interview: Wales captain Gareth Thomas

Interview: Wales caretaker manager Scott Johnson

Ruddock's legacy
15 Feb 06 |  Six Nations
Ruddock told to quit immediately
16 Feb 06 |  Six Nations
Johnson 'did not covet' Wales job
15 Feb 06 |  Six Nations
Ruddock steps down as Wales coach
14 Feb 06 |  Six Nations


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