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I have earned my union pay-off, insists departing chief Moffett.

Byline: By ANDY HOWELL Western Mail

David moffett has mounted a robust defence of the hefty pay-off he will receive from the Welsh Rugby Union when he quits as its group chief executive at the end of the month. The controversial Australian will, it is believed, pocket about pounds 240,000 when he leaves his post despite the WRU's debt still being in excess of pounds 40m and having voluntarily handed in his notice.

But the ever-colourful Moffett claimed it was money well spent despite criticism from grass-roots clubs throughout Wales that they are living on the breadline and can't afford basic equipment like tackle bags.

'I am very, very happy with the way in which I have finished with Welsh rugby and I don't have to explain myself to anybody,' he rapped.

But Moffett promptly did attempt to justify the pay-off, insisting he was personally responsible for Six Nations top dogs Wales' 74,000 sell-out Battle of the Champions with Tri-Nations holders the All Blacks last month taking place.

'The extra game I negotiated with New Zealand this year will more than pay for my severance and my salary for the whole time I was at the WRU,' he maintained.

Moffett's early departure has been prompted by ill-health. He had signed a deal with the WRU last year which extended his contract to May 2008.

He had been on a salary in excess of pounds 260,000 a year and the union has decided not to replace him and scrap the post of group chief executive.

Its chairman David Pickering, who presided over the WRU's 125-year anniversary dinner at the Millennium Stadium last night, has defended the golden goodbye.

'David Moffett is leaving because of ill-health. The payment being made is completely above board and in line with the terms of his contract. Under the terms of his contract, he is entitled to a payment,' he said recently.

Moffett tipped European champions Wales to have their best World Cup since the inaugural tournament of 1987, when they finished third.

'I would like to think we could at least get into the semi-final of the World Cup in 2007 and then, who knows?' he told the BBC.

'We are a bit skinny in the centres but, otherwise, we have got a bit of depth now. The lesson from last year is the players who need operations have got to have them as soon as possible.'

Moffett reignited the issue of North Wales having its own professional team. Currently the area comes under the banner of the Scarlets, who hold two home fixtures a season in Wrexham.

His dream scenario for Welsh rugby when he was appointed WRU boss was for four regional teams - North, South East, South and West.

But those plans foundered because of the loyalty agreement the union had signed with its premier clubs and a compromise deal saw Llanelli and Cardiff become regional clubs playing under the names Scarlets and Blues and the setting up of regions Dragons, Celtic Warriors and Ospreys.

Five became four when the Bridgend and Glamorgan valleys-serving Warriors were wound up last year.

That controversial decision provoked anger in the valleys rugby hotbed of the Rhondda, Taff and Cynon Valleys.

But Moffett hasn't any regrets and doesn't recommend the rebirth of a regional side in the valleys.

He blames the demise of the Warriors on the decision of its management to move most of their home games from Pontypridd to Bridgend and the failure of the valleys rugby community to support it in significant numbers.

The straight-talking Moffett insists fans in the east of the Warriors region - some of those in the west have switched to the Ospreys - have a professional team to support in the shape of the Blues.

He is more interested in the north of the country prospering, saying, 'I still believe that North Wales, centred on Wrexham, could have, in the future, a regional, professional team because North Wales is part of Wales.

'I know South Walians don't necessarily want it because they think it's too far to go but, in Australia, they've got one new team in the Super 14 and they've put it the other side of the country in Western Australia, not the rugby heartlands of Queensland and New South Wales. That's like flying from here to Moscow.

'There's a very small-minded view of North Wales but, perhaps, one day they will have a professional team.

'People there should say we want to have a professional team in X number of years and this is how we are going to get there.'

Moffett also spoke of Wales skills coach and players' favourite Scott Johnson's future. His fellow Aussie has been linked with moves to Leicester Tigers, Queensland Reds, New South Wales Waratahs and the Australia national team.

Moffett confirmed, 'He is here until the end of the next Six Nations. What we have got to do is try and convince him to stay because we know he is in demand elsewhere.

'At the end of the day he likes Wales. The media have been fantastic in coming out and saying we've got to keep him. I think he appreciates that.'

Moffett, who is moving to New Zealand with his family, revealed he would not be seeking a job with his former employer, the NZRU.

They are hosting the 2011 World Cup, but he ruled out any full-time role in that project, restricting himself to saying he might do some consultancy work.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 15, 2005
Words:915
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