FROM THE ARCHIVES: Welsh Rugby Union send in the clowns

As part of the 20th anniversary celebrations here on The East Terrace, we are republishing some classic articles. The below piece first appeared in February, 2006.

The Welsh Rugby Union has decided to ‘send in the clowns’ after the shock departure of their most successful coach for thirty years.

Mike Ruddock, who in 2005 led Wales to her first grand slam since 1978, has stunned the rugby world by stepping down from his position in the middle of Wales’ Six Nations campaign. His replacement, the popular Scott Johnson, is also expected to leave the Welsh camp at the end of the tournament. While Ruddock cited family and personal reasons for his decision, rumours and accusations have surrounded the story; popular opinion being that player power pushed Ruddock out the door.

In response to the drama, WRU chief executive Steve Lewis held a hastily arranged press conference yesterday – complete with troupe of clowns – at the Millennium Stadium. He then issued the following statement: ‘Look at those funny clowns running around the pressroom, what a pleasant sight. How funny is that one with the blue hair, big shoes and squirty flower? What management crisis? What player power problems? What public image disaster? What player boycott of press events? What book? Quick, forget that, look over there! Aren’t those clowns very funny? Ha!’

John Smithe, a public relations expert, claimed the WRU was attempting to create a smokescreen over the coaching debacle by employing an old circus trick.

‘It was, and still is, a technique used by circus people when a dangerous stunt or trick went horribly wrong,’ said Smithe. ‘To distract the paying public from a nasty accident involving a circus entertainer, such as a trapeze acrobat, the ring master would call in the clowns. The clowns job would be to attempt to divert the audience’s attention from the calamity unfolding in front of them.’

Ruddock’s departure is the latest blow to the WRU as several other high profile members have vacated their jobs recently. Controversial group chief executive David Moffett, who made dramatic changes to the structures of Welsh rugby, left his post in November with a stern warning for the future of the game in Wales. This was followed, at the conclusion of the 2005 November internationals, by Welsh fitness coach Andrew Hore returning to his native New Zealand. Hore was extremely popular with the players and was widely credited as being a major influence in Wales securing the championship last year.

Furthermore, Welsh centre Sonny Parker retired from international rugby on the eve of the Six Nations despite his midfield rivals, Tom Shanklin and Gavin Henson, being injured or suspended for the opening couple of games.

When The East Terrace asked Steve Lewis for an explanation on why so many high profile members of the union’s management had stepped down or departed over the last six months, Lewis answered: ‘Because we need to ensure that…oh…hang on a minute…look at the funny clown falling over as he is hit in the face with a custard pie! Splat! Have you ever seen anything so funny, go on, take a look, relax. Take your mind off the stress. Forget why you are here, just laugh.’

Steve Lewis then attempted to sneak out of the press conference via a backdoor while Corky the Clown threw a bucket of glitter over the assembled press pack.

The East Terrace was unable to determine whether the clowns were on a long or short-term contract with the WRU. However, one of the group did admit in private to having penciled in travelling with the Welsh team to France for the 2007 world cup.


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