THE loss of Mike Ruddock as Wales coach has shocked rugby people in South Africa, where there are strong links with the Principality.

Andy Marinos, the former Wales centre who spent six years at Rodney Parade, five as a player and one as Newport Gwent Dragons chief executive, believes below par performances this season must, in part, have been because of distractions off the field.

"Jake White (South Africa's coach) and I were saying that we just couldn't believe the timing of it all in the middle of the Six Nations," commented Marinos, who captained the Dragons when Ruddock was coach and took them to the brink of winning the Celtic League title.

"Had it happened at the end of the tournament it would have made more sense, but it was very disappointing to hear that the coach walked out on the team in the middle of the championship," added Marinos, who is now back in Cape Town in charge of all the South African national squads.

"Wales had a good victory over Scotland and they seemed to jump back on to the ship, but then came the bombshell.

"Obviously as an adopted Welshman I feel it even over here. They had a fantastic 2005 winning the Grand Slam and the feeling was good and in the Autumn they enjoyed a historic win against Australia, then this happened.

"It's unsettling for the team and for the nation. You only to have to look at the results of the Ireland and Italy games to feel that the focus of the players was very much distracted by other things happening on the sidelines.

"An inquiry was held by the Welsh Rugby Union, and all that came out was silence, though the captain said one thing and the coach another.

"Wales is a small, passionate country and what has happened has obviously had an impact. Former players have expressed their views as well which has had an effect, and it all gets into the psyche.

"Now Wales have got to hope for a good result against France next Saturday."