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.
WRU International Skills Coach Jason Strange is a busy man, combining the new role with that of Wales Under 20 attack coach, Ebbw Vale head coach and continuing to teach at Ebbw Fawr Learning Community.
Warren Gatland and Sam Warburton look ahead to this week's crunch RBS 6 Nations tie against France, where the Wales skipper in particular is keen to make his mark, as Paris has proved a bleak place for him in the past.
Following their historic win over England, Wales Under 20 suffered a narrow, 36-34 loss to their Scottish counterparts last weekend, despite outscoring them by five tries to three. Watch the match highlights and reaction.
WRU TV go behind the scenes with the Wales squad as they put the final touches in place ahead of the clash against Scotland at Murrayfield. Follow the squad on their captain's run, the kickers visit to Murrayfield and Neil Jenkins' press conference