New Welsh rugby union coach Mike Ruddock has revealed how he went north in the 1980s and almost defected to rugby league with Wigan.
The national boss, who officially took charge of his country on May 1, went as far as visiting both Widnes and Wigan - and having an evening out at the club of legendary hardman Jim Mills - while a back row union player with Swansea.
But Ruddock stopped short of joining the paid ranks of the 13-a-side code because he still had aspirations to wear the three feathers of Wales at the National Stadium.
Ruddock's first port of call was Widnes and, although rumours suggested he actually had a run-out for the club while still a Swansea flanker, it did not go quite that far.
He said: "I didn't actually have a trial because, in those days, you were afraid to have trials for rugby league sides. You could have been banned for life from rugby union if you did.
"I went up to Widnes for a visit and big Jim Mills showed me around. I had a chat with their chairman Eddie MacDonald. He was great and I had a few beers with Jim in his club afterwards."
But a heart-to-heart with former Wales scrum-half Brynmor Williams, who was then playing at the professional rugby league outfit Cardiff Blue Bulls, convinced Ruddock to explore the Wigan option if he wanted to go north.
The Welsh coach added: "I was asking Brynmor what I should do and he told me that, if you are going to go to rugby league, then go to the best club - and Wigan were the best.
"I was interested in rugby league as well because it suited my game with the hard tackling and I'm sure I would have enjoyed it.
"But I had aspirations of playing for Wales and that swayed me."
Ruddock does, though, draw on the methods used in the 13-a-side code through his sidekick Clive Griffiths, the man who guided the Welsh rugby league team to an incredible 2000 World Cup semi-final against global kings Australia.
The pair have orchestrated Welsh regional side Newport-Gwent Dragons to a position where they are challenging for the Celtic League and Griffiths has now joined the national coaching set-up.
Ruddock said: "Obviously, we have taken a lot on board and changes to our game have made rugby union become more similar to rugby league.
"The influence in defence of ex-rugby league people like Clive Griffiths in our game has been great. Their sport went professional a long time ago and it sets high standards.
"If I get the chance, I do watch it on the television but I have to be honest that, because of all the commitments I have with the family and the phone going all the time, I don't see much of it, but Clive always tells me about the games anyway."
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