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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 March, 2004, 15:37 GMT
Patience rewards Ruddock
Mike Ruddock
Born: Blaina, 05/09/59
1992: Appointed Swansea coach after an industrial accident had shortened playing career, sees his team beat world champions Australia
1993: Wins league title
1994: Wins league title
1995: Swansea win Welsh Cup, assists Alex Evans with Wales at the World Cup
1997: Head coach at Leinster
2000: Back to Wales as Ebbw Vale and Wales 'A' coach
2003: Coach of Gwent Dragons, ends Wales' 11-game losing streak as caretaker coach against Romania
New Wales coach Mike Ruddock was the Welsh candidate with the widest experience for the job.

A hard-working back-row man in his day, his playing career at Blaina, Tredegar and Swansea was cut short by an industrial accident that saw him turn to coaching at an early age.

Ruddock, now 44, began his coaching career at Blaina and had spells at Cross Keys and Irish club Bective Rangers before finding success in charge at Swansea.

He built a team that beat the world champion Wallabies in 1992 and won back-to-back league titles in 1993 and 1994.

After claiming the Welsh Cup in 1995 and acting as Alex Evans' assistant at the World Cup, Ruddock headed for a new challenge in Ireland, taking over at Leinster in 1997.

The Gwent man was reportedly promised the position of Wales coach in 1998, before the Welsh Rugby Union had a last-minute change of heart and launched a worldwide search before appointing Graham Henry.

After three years in Ireland Ruddock was lured back across the Irish Sea by the offer of the Ebbw Vale and Wales A jobs - and the strong suspicion that he was next in line for the national coaching position.

David Nash, 1967-8
4 games, resigned
Clive Rowlands, 1968-74
29 games, full term
John Dawes, 1974-9
24 games, full term
John Lloyd, 1980-82
14 games, full term
John Bevan, 1982-5
15 games, resigned (ill health)
Tony Gray, 1985-8
24 games, full term
John Ryan, 1988-90
9 games, resigned
Ron Waldron, 1990-91
10 games, resigned (ill health)
Alan Davies, 1991-5
35 games, resigned
Alex Evans, 1995
4 games (caretaker)
Kevin Bowring, 1995-8
29 games, resigned (1st professional coach)
Dennis John
2 games, caretaker only
Graham Henry, 1998-2002
34 games, resigned
Lynn Howells, 2001
2 games, caretaker only
Steve Hansen, 2002-4
31 games, full term
Mike Ruddock, 2004-

Again the WRU looked to New Zealand, though, with then assistant coach Steve Hansen appointed after Henry's sudden resignation.

Ruddock had to be content with a regional job at the unfancied Newport Gwent Dragons, a side widely regarded as the runt of the regional litter, under-funded and riven by internal conflict.

But together with Clive Griffiths - who should be named as Ruddock's new Wales assistant - the coach built a hard-working, gritty side that enjoyed a spirited run in the Heineken Cup and found themselves in contention near the top of the Celtic League.

Ruddock was even given a brief run at the national job, taking control of the squad for the trip to face Romania in Wrexham last August during Wales' crowded World Cup warm-up.

His team won that game 54-8 to end an 11-game losing streak under the leadership of Hansen.

Wales' long-suffering fans will hope that sort of Midas touch will continue to serve them well in the more difficult challenges to come.



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