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.
All roads lead to Cardiff on Sunday for the SSE SWALEC Finals Day at the Millennium Stadium. Cambrian Welfare tackle Ystradgynlais in the Bowl final, Ystrad Rhondda play Newcastle Emlyn in the Plate final while defending champions Pontypridd face Bridgend in the Cup final.
WRU Chief Executive Roger Lewis, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Ken Skates and WRU Chairman Gareth Davies earlier this week launched a new competition in conjunction with the WRU unveiling its archive room.
Welsh players and management joined Deputy Minister for Sport Ken Skates at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay earlier this week to reveal the Union's pioneering school-club hub initiative has been so successful the project will now almost double the scale of the original project.
The Scarlets, Newport Gwent Dragons, Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys look ahead to Judgement Day III which sees the Blues take on the Ospreys (2.30) and the Dragons tackle the Scarlets (4.45pm) at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
Ystradgynlais and Ynysddu played out a titanic struggle at Taffs Well in the SSE SWALEC Bowl semi-final. At the end of the game neither team could be separated after a 15-15 stalemate but Ystradgynlais go through on try count.
Blues strike first in JD III battle - Newport Gwent Dragons lock Andrew Coombs, WRU referee Dylan Llyr Jones and Cardiff Blues hooker Matthew Rees decide dressing room allocations for Judgement Day III
Wales Under 18 captain Calum Haggett has received a conditional offer to read Biomedical Science at St Anne's College, Oxford. WRU chairman Gareth Davies went to meet Calum and Coleg y Cymoedd Principal Judith Evans to wish him luck in his exams and pass on some of his personal experience.
Dodgy tattoos, carthorses, Avatar and soft chins are revealed by Wales Sevens players Tom Williams and Sam Cross as they profile the Wales Sevens squad taking part in Hong Kong this weekend in the latest round of the HSBC Sevens World Series.