Ruddock's Grand Slammers will clash with Graham Henry's Tri-Nations winners New Zealand at a sold-out Millennium Stadium on 5th November 2005. Then the two men will have a private battle to succeed South Africa's Jake White as 'Coach of the Year' at the annual awards ceremony to be staged at Pavillon d'Armenonville in Paris's Allée de Longchamps on Sunday 27th November. In addition, the Lions-slaying All Blacks and the RBS Six Nations Champions will be vying for the IRB's 'Team of the Year' title. "It is great news that Mike Ruddock's Wales side has been shortlisted for the 'Team of the Year' title for the first time in the five year history of these IRB awards," said WRU Chief Executive David Moffett. "It is testimony to how much the team has developed under Mike and his coaching and management team in such a short space of time. A first Grand Slam in twenty-seven years was a special moment for Welsh rugby. "Mike has already been nominated for the Sports Council of Wales's 'Welsh Coach of the Year' title and now he will also be battling with Graham Henry, who won that when he was coaching Wales, for the IRB crown. "These nominations are nothing less than the Wales team and Mike Ruddock deserve for their outstanding achievements over the past year." The only previous Welsh winners at the IRB Awards, which were inaugurated in 2001 are Gavin Henson, who was the 'Young Player of the Year' in the first year, former Rugby World Cup Final referee Derek Bevan, who took the referees' 'Distinguished Service' award in 2003, and former WRU and IRB Chairman Vernon Pugh, who posthumously received the IRB Chairman's Award in the same year. The gala event rewards the highest achievements in the game from the end of the 2004 Lloyds TSB Autumn Series until 2005 Invesco Perpetual Series and also honours outstanding past contribution to Rugby. Where awards categories have nominees, they have been shortlisted by an independent panel of judges, made up of former internationals with 503 caps between them; Francois Pineaar, Michael Jones, Fabien Galthie, Keith Wood, Gavin Hastings, Jonathan Davies, Dan Lyle, Federico Mendez and the convenor, John Eales. Five players, all from the southern hemisphere, have been shortlisted to succeeed Schalk Burger as the IRB 'Player of the Year'. They are All Blacks Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Tana Umaga and Springboks Bryan Habana and Victor Matfield.
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.