Rugby: Heavyweight trio share roots in small village in Wales

By Campbell Burnes

Wales coach Byron Hayward. File photo / Getty Images
Wales coach Byron Hayward. File photo / Getty Images

It is a small world, and an even smaller rugby world.

Three men of rugby who will meet up for a drink after tomorrow's Ireland-Wales clash in Pukekohe would concur wholeheartedly.

Ireland coach Mike Ruddock and Wales coach Byron Hayward both share a unique bond with Counties Manukau Rugby Union business development manager Phil Kingsley Jones. They all come from the small south Wales village of Blaina, once at the heart of Wales' thriving mining industry and a rugged rugby opponent for any visiting side.

Ruddock, coaching the Ireland U20s (his son Rhys has played for the senior Ireland team), has won a Grand Slam as coach of Wales in 2005.

"Back in the day when Phil was playing for Blaina, they were a very successful team, very tough to beat. We were brought up to aspire to be a good player because of the standard of the local team," said Ruddock.

Hayward, the most junior of the trio in age, is looking forward to the rematch of the Ireland-Wales Under 20s Six Nations encounter.

He says the 16-0 victory in vile conditions a few months ago was flattering to his side, so he is expecting another tight tussle tomorrow in the 5.35pm Pool B game at ECOLight Stadium. Hayward was also coached by Ruddock in the Wales A side.

"I've known Mike all his life, and Byron played with my son Kingsley Jones, so they are two special friends," said Kingsley Jones, the oldest of the Blaina three. "Byron was like a second son to me. He was always coming into the house to play.

"We were feared. No one wanted to play us," he said of Blaina, which was in the second tier of Wales club rugby. "But you had to leave to play at the higher level." That meant heading to Swansea, Llanelli, Cardiff or Newport. Kingsley Jones coached Ruddock and also played with him for Blaina, before he emigrated to New Zealand in the early 1980s, carving out a coaching and speaking career and famously managing the affairs of Jonah Lomu.

Kingsley Jones said he would love to see his old mate Lomu at some stage in Pukekohe, as Lomu is the JWC tournament ambassador.

The pair have been estranged for several years.

- NZ Herald

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