MIKE Ruddock was devastated to see fellow Blaina boy Byron Hayward lose his job with Wales, but has backed boss Wayne Pivac’s right to make such a dramatic change.

The defence coach was axed on Sunday less than 12 months after the Pivac era started against the Barbarians at Principality Stadium.

Pivac denied that the 51-year-old from Blaina had been made a scapegoat for a poor run of form that has seen Wales lose five Tests on the spin, slip to eighth in the world rankings and have their worst Six Nations campaign since 2007

Ruddock knows all about life in the hotseat after spearheading the 2005 Grand Slam and says the man calling the shots has to be given the right to make hard decisions when it comes to his management team.

"With Byron, he’s from my village and so I’m biased towards him,” said Ruddock, who coached Hayward at Ebbw Vale.

“He’s a top coach and a smashing guy so it was devastating to see him leave from a human perspective. Nobody likes to see that.

"But from a rugby perspective, the buck stops with the head coach so he has the power to change things up if he thinks that is best for the team going forward.

Penarth Times:

"Ultimately, that’s his call and we have to respect that. Like all coaches, we get judged on results, particularly at international level.

"Wayne now needs a run of games to put his stamp on things and that’s exactly what he has now. Up until now, because of the pandemic, it has all been stop-start, which makes things difficult.

"It’s important for him to now shape continuity of preparation and continuity of performance.

"The guys really need to start to understand what he wants from them and the team."

Former Dragons boss Ruddock says Wales they need to stand firm in Dublin on Friday night if they are to avoid a sixth successive defeat in the Autumn Nations Cup opener, which will be shown live on S4C.

"They need to be tougher to score against,” said Ruddock, whose son Rhys is an Ireland international and has been in terrific form in Leinster’s back row.

"Ireland will have noticed that Wales conceded a try from a driving line-out, so they will be wanting to test Wales there again.

"Ireland will be examining Wales in those close-quarter exchanges to see what the appetite is to repel those kinds of challenges.

"That’s what it will come down to. How do Wales manage those critical moments?

"Can Wales show the physicality and technical wherewithal to deny the opposition in those key moments near the line?

Penarth Times:

"Can Wales withstand pressure when the opposition is camped in your territory?

"It might be old school, but it goes back to the kind of key physical moments that used to define the game when you went to Pontypool on a wet Tuesday night.

"The game has changed in so many ways, but some fundamentals remain constant. Then, as now, you either survive in those physical moments or the game passes you by.

"You either come through them and win, or else you are overwhelmed and over-powered and you lose."

Ruddock sees Ireland in a similar situation to Wales, with both nations striving to move on with relatively new coaches after periods of considerable success.

"Ireland have not had the consistency of old, certainly within an entire 80 minutes," says Ruddock.

"For the first 15 minutes against France, they looked strong and organised, but they were not able to maintain that.

"That’s the challenge for Andy Farrell as a new coach, but to achieve that you need the ability to interact on a regular basis which he hasn’t had."

Ruddock sees the key to a Wales victory being mastery at the breakdown, the facet of the game which he believes is now more critical than ever.

"The biggest thing at the moment for all coaches is the new interpretation of the breakdown. We saw Scotland dominate the breakdown against Wales and the difference that made to the performance and, ultimately, to the result.

"There is a transition here for every coach. The more quickly you can accelerate that transition, then the quicker you’ll get the benefits.

"I would say the breakdown had doubled in its significance, compared to before.

"You might get 15 of your own line-outs, but 100 opportunities to win ball at the breakdown.

"The big thing for Wales is to sustain territory better than they did against Scotland.

"Wales can turn it around. They are recent Grand Slam champions and every team at present is some way off their absolute best, because of the environment we are in."

Watch live coverage of Ireland v Wales in the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup, from 6.30pm on Friday night, on S4C.