Johnson leads list to succeed Ruddock

Mike Ruddock’s resignation as Wales coach has stunned planet rugby and left the reigning Six Nations Championship holders in the caretaker hands of Australian Scott Johnson.

Johnson will take charge for remaining Six Nations games against Ireland, Italy and France this season, having received widespread acclaim after developing Wales into one of the most exciting attacking units around.

Less than two years after Ruddock was appointed though, Welsh Rugby Union chiefs now find themselves once again searching for a new head coach.

We look at some of the candidates who might be considered:

SCOTT JOHNSON

The witty Australian is red-hot favourite – and would undoubtedly be the players’ choice – but he is also in demand Down Under, where the Wallabies want him as part of a new coaching team working alongside John Connolly and Michael Foley.

Johnson could find himself with a straight choice confronting him at the end of this season’s Six Nations – Wales head coach or Australian assistant boss.

GARETH JENKINS

Llanelli Scarlets rugby director Jenkins was expected to replace New Zealander Steve Hansen in the Wales hot-seat almost two years ago, but Ruddock emerged from nowhere, having not even applied for the job.

Jenkins, part of the coaching team on last summer’s Lions tour to New Zealand, will still have many supporters, but his experience last time around left a sour taste, and one wonders whether he still retains an appetite.

LYN JONES

Highly-respected Ospreys coach Jones is from a similar mould that created Ruddock, having emerged through the Welsh club scene as player and coach before taking charge of Gavin Henson and company when Welsh professional rugby became region-based.

Not afraid to speak his mind, Jones might scare the living daylights out of some WRU officials, but he would be a popular choice among the supporters.

PAUL TURNER

Former Wales fly-half Turner is currently heading up the Newport Gwent Dragons, although they have endured an average campaign, making early exits from both the Heineken Cup and Powergen Cup competitions.

An innovative player, Turner spent many years plying his coaching trade in England with clubs like Sale, Bedford and Harlequins, so he does not lack experience.

PHIL DAVIES

Oversaw Leeds’ rapid rise through the English club game from lower regional division status to securing a place among the Premiership elite. Davies also made another major breakthrough at Headingley, masterminding Heineken Cup qualification on two separate occasions.

The ex-Wales and Llanelli forward was mentioned as a possibility before the WRU turned to Ruddock, and would still be viewed as only a long-shot.

MARK EVANS

The Harlequins chief executive was the surprise main challenger to Gareth Jenkins, and it was believed to be a two-horse race until Ruddock appeared.

Evans would be a little-known figure in Welsh rugby circles, yet his management skills are highly regarded and Quins are firmly on course for an immediate Premiership return after being relegated last term.

CLIVE WOODWARD

Woodward voiced his admiration for the Welsh players before, during and after last summer’s troubled Lions tour, but England’s World Cup-winning coach has embarked on a new career as football director with Southampton.

The chances are Woodward will return to rugby one day, yet even by his standards, Wales represents probably too much of an audacious job move. One also wonders what the Welsh supporters might make of it.


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