Saturday 20 January 2018

Davies determined to take charge as Wales search for cutting edge

Wales centre Jonathan Davies (Getty Images)
Wales centre Jonathan Davies (Getty Images)

James Corrigan

Win, draw or lose, Jonathan Davies knows he will be singing tonight. Yet how this Welshman craves for this evening to be remembered for the celebrations of yet another victory over Scotland and not for the tune he is obliged to belt out in recognition of his 50th cap.

The game has changed, the stakes might be higher, but old customs live on.

Last Sunday at the post-match dinner, the squad ordered Bradley Davies to his feet and although the 6ft 7in, 20st second-rower was brave to take on Love by Nat King Cole, the fact that Jonathan Davies reported "he was OK, but mumbled his way through it" was probably apt considering that afternoon's 16-16 scoreline in Dublin.

The outside-centre is not sure which track he will opt for but does remember that for his first cap he chose Do Wah, Diddy, Diddy. Davies just prays that by the time the microphone is thrust in his hand the back line will "have looked good, looked fine" and might just have blown the Millennium Stadium's mind.

Certainly that is the plan for Warren Gatland's men and Davies is acutely aware who the spotlight is on.

"In Dublin we probably went away from getting momentum and go-forward and looking back on the video as backs, we just have to execute those opportunities which were created," Davies said.

"The forwards are working their socks off for us and as backs we have to be really harsh on ourselves."

Wales have scored only four tries in their last six matches against tier-one opposition and during this period the likes of Graham Henry and Nick Mallett have accused them of "wasting" their talents in behind.

It is not a new criticism but much hope was invested in the return of Davies after seven months out because of knee surgery and the reunion of his Lions centre pairing with Jamie Roberts. Ireland was Davies' first cap since last year's Six Nations and, but for a few touches, he could not ignite the Dragons. He expects the spark to be there this time around.

"I need to get back up to speed and get confident on the ball again," Davies said. "One of the things I have to do is to make sure of the organisation of the backline. We have such threats and it's ensuring we utilise them."

Of course, it does not rest entirely on Davies' shoulders and in terms of what he calls "the mix", the remarkable recovery of Dan Biggar from the ankle injury which forced his early removal six days ago is being seen as important.

In an unchanged XV, the No 10 they now nickname 'Lazarus' is being backed to resurrect Wales' cutting edge and that involves giving the midfield duo the ammunition to release the likes of George North.

Davies feels Wales are right to count on him and his huge pal inside.

"It's been good coming back into camp with Jamie," Davies said. "We've played a lot together and that understanding has helped me fit back in quickly.

"When we first started together people were dismissive of the partnership but we've worked hard and done a few good things over the years. I wouldn't say we are like a married couple, but on match-day we know what each other is doing."

Five times they have lined up together against Scotland and five times they have been on the winning side. Wales are on an eight-match run against their Celtic rivals, the longest winning streak in this 133-year-old fixture, and under a closed roof in front of a full crowd, an extension to nine is the very least expected.

Davies has thrilled Welsh fans by signing up to return to the Scarlets from Clermont in the summer and to mark his half-century it would be appropriate if the 27-year-old thrilled them again today .

Defence coach Shaun Edwards is just one who anticipates Davies doing exactly that.

"Jonathan's a credit to himself, and his partnership with Jamie Roberts will be talked about for the next 50 years," Edwards said.

"It's fantastic that he will be getting his 50th cap. Coming back from a cruciate injury, he has acquitted himself fantastically and I'm pretty sure he'll play his part in what is going to be an exciting game." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Wales - Liam Williams; G North, J Davies, J Roberts, T James; D Biggar, G Davies; R Evans, S Baldwin, S Lee; L Charteris, A-W Jones; S Warburton (capt), J Tipuric, T Faletau. Reps: K Owens, G Jenkins, T Francis, B Davies, D Lydiate, Lloyd Williams, R Priestland, G Anscombe.

Scotland - S Hogg; S Maitland, M Bennett, D Taylor, T Seymour; F Russell, G Laidlaw (capt); A Dickinson, R Ford, WP Nel; R Gray, J Gray; J Barclay, J Hardie, D Denton. Reps: S McInally, G Reid, Z Fagerson, T Swinson, B Cowan, S Hidalgo-Clyne, D Weir, S Lamont.

Ref - G Clancy (IRFU)

Wales v Scotland, Live, RTE 2 /BBC 1, 4.50

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