Bowring should take the reins for Wales
John Taylor
October 2, 2007

"Jenkins was and is a thoroughly competent coach but he simply did not have enough variety of experience." John Taylor issues his verdict on the Wales debacle

Nobody, least of all Gareth Jenkins, will be surprised that Wales' early exit from the World Cup has cost him his job. For a nation as proud of its rugby heritage as Wales, reaching the quarter-finals is the bottom line.

To go out at the Pool stage is quite simply not good enough and the coach is the man who has to take the blame - even if it is not entirely his fault.

As WRU group chief executive, Roger Lewis, said, 'No one can deny the total commitment, passion and dedication that Gareth Jenkins has delivered to Welsh rugby' - but that was never going to be enough.

Lewis went on to say, 'Sport at this level is defined by success and the reality is that Wales have the journey has started for Wales to the 2011 Rugby World Cup and we must aim for one thing and that is the success of a winning Wales (whatever that means).'

With just six wins from 20 games Jenkins was already under the cosh and even making the last eight might not have been enough to save him. The coaching staff had been the only part of the WRU which had not been transformed since Lewis took over almost exactly a year ago.

He had moved swiftly to get rid of the two men running the Union until he arrived - WRU chief executive, Steve Lewis, and Millennium Stadium, chief executive, Paul Sergeant, - and had brought in new blood in the communications, marketing and finance departments.

He had also let it be known there would be one more important appointment to complete the new jigsaw - the equivalent of England's Rob Andrew to oversee the whole playing and elite performance structure. That now becomes a huge priority because he will want him involved in the appointment of a new coach.

Jenkins was and is a thoroughly competent coach (faint praise) but he simply did not have enough variety of experience. He had spent his whole career at Llanelli and that was the reason, the then group chief executive, David Moffett, stepped in to persuade Mike Ruddock to take the job in 2004 after Jenkins thought he had it.

Ruddock had broadened his horizons and was a much more worldly figure - an essential ingredient of being a successful national coach.

Jenkins then made matters worse by surrounding himself with a team of assistant coaches that had even less experience. They were all Welsh which he tried to sell as a massive plus but it turned out to be horribly naïve.

Everybody east of Swansea saw it as cronyism - Nigel Davies and Robin McBryde had been with him at Llanelli, Rowland Phillips was another West Walean - the knives were out right from the start.

There was much talk from the head coach about 'the Welsh Way.' It was supposed to denote a different, unique, direction for Welsh rugby in style and coaching but it was always unconvincing.

There was never enough substance to how and what he was trying to achieve and, as various crises emerged, he changed tack far too often.

The rumour and counter-rumour that surrounded the departure of Ruddock and the subsequent attempts to get the players' favourite, Australian, Scott Johnson, to take over were issues that Jenkins had to deal with as soon as he took the job but he never lanced the boil and there was always the feeling that the senior players still held too much sway.

There is always a fine line between stamping authority and using the experience in the squad and Jenkins never got it right. Gareth Thomas was always a loose cannon and you never felt Jenkins could control him.

He made an unnecessary rod for his own back over the captaincy and, increasingly, came to be seen as a man with a vision but no clear plan as to how to make it happen.

So, what now? It goes without saying that the whole coaching team will go - a new coach will always want to pick his own team and the current group (except perhaps Neil Jenkins) really do not tick any of the boxes - but the team manager must go as well.

Alan Phillips was always a strange choice and never seemed to be around when there was a crisis that needed a managerial safe pair of hands - take the Gareth Thomas television debacle, for example.

Then there is that crucial appointment of an elite performance director.

Wales do need somebody who knows the structure and the politics and there is one candidate who is ideally suited if he can be persuaded to take the job.

Kevin Bowring left the WRU when he was ousted as coach, feeling betrayed and disillusioned. He has since built a formidable reputation behind the scenes with the RFU as somebody who can identify and bring through coaching talent at the elite level.

For the top job I have no doubts that Wales have to look outside the Principality. Through mismanagement and politics they have exhausted all the plausible candidates and would now be scraping the barrel if they were to look to appoint from within.

Jake White and Eddie Jones have other things to worry about for the next couple of weeks but I suspect they might be getting a call in the not too distant future - they might be rival candidates or even be sounded out as the dream team - expensive but Lewis usually gets what he wants.

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