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Williams column: Mike Ruddock can revive ailing Ospreys

Mike Ruddock

IT’S great to see Mike Ruddock back in Welsh rugby but there’s a big task ahead of him. Personally, I hope Mike stays longer than the month he’s been signed up for as a consultant but I guess we will just have to wait and see how he goes.

I think Mike is the right man to get the Ospreys back on the right path. He’s a very shrewd operator and he demands high standards so I’m sure he will have identified areas of their rugby operation that need improving. I think he will make an instant impact and he is exactly what they need to get them back on track.

He’s the sort of bloke who injects confidence into the players. What Mike was really good at when he coached Wales to the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2005 was surrounding himself with quality coaches. The final say would always go to Mike but he trusted the coaches working underneath him and I think if he’s given the chance to stay longer then he will do the same for the Ospreys.

With attack coach Matt Sherratt leaving at the end of the season there are a lot of vacancies to be filled. I think my old coach Sean Holley would be an excellent choice to work alongside Mike. He’s a very good technical coach and he’s a great man manager. But in the long-term I’d like to see the Ospreys consider young Welsh coaches such as Dwayne Peel and Jonathan Thomas.

Both are doing exceptionally well at Ulster and Bristol respectively and I’m sure Jonathan will make a success of his move back to Worcester. Much of Ospreys’ disappointing form is down to poor basic skills so they need to get back to those basics with a coach who specialises in that area.

Dwayne Peel
Coaching talent: Dwayne Peel has taken his fledgling career as a skills coach from Bristol to Ulster in the PRO14. Getty Images

I knew as a player they were going to become successful coaches. Dwayne would certainly be a good replacement for Sherratt and it’s vitally important we get him back to Welsh rugby. The Ospreys have been lacking some spark in attack and I think Dwayne would be an excellent appointment to get them playing   free-flowing rugby again.

I feel for Allen Clarke because he had to contend with so much off the field politics such as the failed merger with the Scarlets last season and all the uncertainty surrounding ‘project reset’. He did a fantastic job in guiding the Ospreys to Heineken Champions Cup qualification but unfortunately he had to operate with one hand tied behind his back due to his best players being away at the World Cup.

The Ospreys rely on the likes of Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and James Hook far too much but the most concerning thing is I don’t know what sort of game they are trying to play. The tipping point might have been the home defeat to the Southern Kings last month.

No offence to the Kings but they are one of the weakest sides in the PRO14 and the Ospreys should be beating them comfortably at home even without their star players. They were extremely disjointed and their attacking game was non-existent.

When I was playing for the Ospreys and they were winning silverware we had quality players such as Filo Tiatia, Marty Holah and Jason Spice to fall back on when our internationals were away. The Ospreys don’t have that at the moment and that’s something they need to address when it comes to recruitment over the coming seasons.

I must say I am disappointed with the way this whole situation has been handled by the Ospreys. I was at the PRO14 media day at the Cardiff City Stadium last week where they put up Richie Pugh and James Hook to talk to the Press. Bearing in mind it was less than 24 hours since news broke that Allen Clarke was no longer coaching the Ospreys there was bound to be some questions asked about their current situation.

I spoke to James Hook and he told me he wasn’t allowed to say anything about the current situation. A senior representative of the Ospreys should have been there taking questions   instead of Richie and James who were put in impossible situations. I can understand the criticism from their fans on social media and, as a former player, I am as frustrated as everyone else.

Hopefully they can learn from this  situation and move forward positively. The Ospreys will get a load of their Wales internationals back over the next couple of weeks and having   George North, Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Beard and Justin Tipuric on the field will make a massive difference.

These Christmas derbies are a way of getting their season back on track. They will want to give a good account of themselves for their supporters and it is paramount they get a few wins to inject some momentum back into their season.

SHANE WILLIAMS

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