By Michael Moynihan
WELSH rugby continues to be embroiled in controversy, with former national coach Mike Ruddock requesting an emergency meeting with the Welsh Rugby Union.
Ruddock told the BBC yesterday that he had contacted WRU chairman David Pickering to arrange the meeting as soon as possible because he felt the Union did not have all the relevant facts about his departure.
In another development yesterday WRU chief executive Steve Lewis dismissed suggestions player power was at the root of the coach’s sudden departure this week and absolved the WRU of blame for scuppering contract negotiations with the Grand Slam-winning coach.
Ruddock left his job as Wales coach this week, citing "family reasons", with skills coach Scott Johnson put in temporary charge, but reports have since surfaced suggesting senior players had demanded Ruddock’s removal.
Lewis told BBC Radio Wales yesterday that there was no pressure to hasten Ruddock’s departure, saying that his most recent meeting with the Welsh players did not involve a discussion of Ruddock’s coaching abilities.
However, a leaked letter from Lewis to Ruddock published in The Times yesterday reveals it was Lewis who suspended contract talks, but the chief executive insisted this was only a temporary measure and claimed Ruddock had wanted to renegotiate the contract, having shaken hands on it in July, adding that the Union "didn’t feel it was appropriate to conduct negotiations during the Six Nations."
Lewis confirmed the WRU had agreed to pay Ruddock and his coaching staff Grand Slam bonuses but revealed it was not a contractual obligation, and that Ruddock’s financial advisers had asked for payment of £18,000 (€26,270) of the £20,000 to be deferred until May 2006.