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Dublin: 16 °C Wednesday 20 March, 2019
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'I'm probably going through the back door': Ruddock happy in the club game

The former Wales head coach is now settled in his role at Lansdowne.

Ruddock has been in charge of Lansdowne since 2011.
Ruddock has been in charge of Lansdowne since 2011.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

MIKE RUDDOCK SAYS he is unlikely to return to professional rugby at this stage of his career, with the former Wales head coach now settled in his role with Lansdowne as the club bid for a third Ulster Bank League title this weekend.

Ruddock had been linked with the Cardiff Blues head coach position before Christmas but Australian John Mulvihill has since been appointed to succeed Danny Wilson at the Welsh region.

The 58-year-old’s name has also been mentioned in relation to the soon-to-be-vacant head job at Connacht, with the western province set to part ways with Kieran Keane after just one season.

However Ruddock, who has been in charge of Lansdowne for the last seven seasons, leading the Dublin club to two AIL titles in that time, says he has not actively looked for coaching opportunities within the professional game since leaving his role as Ireland U20s coach in 2014.

“I haven’t got an agent or anyone sort of promoting my cause,” Ruddock said. “I haven’t really ever had one of those. I’ve never been overly worried that way, to promote myself that way.

“If anyone ever wanted to talk to me, they’re very welcome to talk to me, but I’m pretty settled now. Coming up to 59 now, I’m probably going through the back door, rather than coming back in the front door. You’d never say never, but it’s highly unlikely.”

Ruddock has held a number of high-profile positions in the past, including the Leinster head coach role for three seasons and the top job in Welsh rugby, during which he masterminded their first Grand Slam win in 27 years back in 2005.

After three years at Worcester Warriors, Ruddock returned to Ireland to manage the development of the next generation at U20 level, enjoying varying levels of success and overseeing the emergence of the likes of Tadhg Furlong and Garry Ringrose among many others.

The former back row brought a wealth of experience to Lansdowne after the club had earned promotion to Division 1A in 2011 and in driving levels of professionalism and raising standards, has been at the helm during a period of success for the club, which has included two league titles and a Bateman Cup crown.

Niall Kenneally with Ian Prendiville The 2018 Ulster Bank League final takes place this Sunday at 3pm. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Lansdowne will be looking to add to their haul under Ruddock’s tutelage on Sunday when they face holders Cork Constitution in the Ulster Bank League final at the Aviva Stadium, which is a repeat of last month’s Bateman Cup decider.

Led by former Munster out-half Scott Deasy, who is now the club’s all-time leading points scorer, Lansdowne finished top of Division 1A — their dominance underlined by a 10-point cushion over second-placed Terenure — and then kept their double bid alive with a powerful defeat of Garryowen in the semi-finals.

But Con, hurting from their Bateman Cup defeat, will be determined to retain their crown and the latest instalment of a fascinating rivalry is another piquant subplot to the biggest occasion in the domestic calendar.

“It’s going to come down to a massive effort again on Sunday against an excellent team, who know how to win in fairness,” Ruddock continued.

“The pitch looks fantastic and I’m hoping there is a reasonable crowd. May Bank Holiday, I’m hoping people turn out and give the club game a shot in the arm with a good attendance.

“It should be good fun, really good fun.”

Ruddock is unlikely to have Leinster centre Tom Daly available for the final after he made his comeback in the province’s heavy defeat to Connacht last week, while Peter Dooley and Charlie Rock ‘will have decisions to make’ whether or not to play ahead of the British and Irish Cup final with Leinster ‘A’ on Saturday week.

“It doesn’t hurt to put yourself out there [at the Aviva] in a Cup final and show people what you can do,” the Welshman adds, knowing he’ll need all hands on deck come 3pm Sunday.

“Their [Cork Con] pack is very strong and key guys there with a lot of big-game intellectually property and then you have half-backs who dictate matters and boys outside who can score and finish.

“And a big strong defence, last year I think they had the best defensive stats in the league so they’re tough. They’re tough to break down.”

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