Weekend Interview – Jonathan Davies proudly singing the praises of Wales ahead of Six Nations showdown

IN THE BOX: Jonathan Davies, left with co-commentator, Sir Clive Woodward. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images
IN THE BOX: Jonathan Davies, left with co-commentator, Sir Clive Woodward. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images
0
Have your say

A LITTLE before 4.45pm this afternoon, Jonathan Davies, like so many proud Welshmen, will stand and sing his country’s national anthem and feel the hairs on the back of his neck stick up once more.

Never mind Welshmen; Hen Wlad Fy NhadauOld Land Of My Fathers – is so stirring and evocative, it is hard to imagine anyone of any nationality not being caught up by the emotion and passion of it all.

That is especially so when sung by more than 60,000 fans before facing England in the Six Nations as will be the case at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff later today.

Davies, the graceful fly-half who shone for Wales and captained them before switching codes and heading north in 1989, will be commentating for the BBC once more when the crucial contest gets underway.

“It’s one of those really strong national anthems,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

“Everyone loves singing it. It’s an amazing noise obviously when the stadium is full and the roof is closed as well and it’s being belted out like it is.

Everyone loves singing it. It’s an amazing noise obviously when the stadium is full and the roof is closed as well and it’s being belted out like it is.

Jonathan Davies

“Some may have had a bit of alcohol in them as well but it is one of these things that creates a very, very special moment.

“There will be a lot of English in the Principality on Saturday as well, mind, because tickets have been so expensive so I think the English national anthem will stir the English boys as well.

“And, unfortunately, the anthems have never won games; clear minds and who responds best to pressure is what is key.”

These are, of course, the last two remaining unbeaten teams in this season’s competition and, essentially, then, this is viewed as a game which will go a long way towards deciding who claims the title and a potential Grand Slam.

England, who won in Cardiff two years ago on the way to the latter, have been mightily impressive winning at the home of reigning champions Ireland and then sweeping past France, claiming a maximum 10 points along the way.

Wales have beaten France and Italy, though not in the same spectacular style, but they are in remarkable form, Warren Gatland’s side unbeaten for a year.

They have won their last 11 games and will break the national record – set between 1907 and 1910 – if they can overcome Eddie Jones’s side tonight.

Davies, 56, said: “It’d be great if they do achieve that,

“The thing with the run so far is they haven’t beaten New Zealand, Ireland or England during it yet. They’ve played well and gone to Argentina and won there, beaten South Africa and Australia, too, so of they win this it will break a record that’s lasted over 100 years.

“That will be one hell of an achievement and it’d be good to add England to that list but it is a big ask. England are the form side, are playing exceptionally well and look strong across the board so it is going to be one hell of a tough match for Wales.

“But playing at home, with some confidence, I think it’ll be a really good game. I don’t think England have really been pressurised yet in this tournament.

“They started well on both occasions against Ireland and France and been in control of the matches but I think, tactically, the opposition have played the wrong games. It’ll be a very interesting tactical battle on Saturday and I just hope we have a good game.”

He added: “If you look at it, England have scored 10 tries so far this tournament and several have come from kicks plus two interceptions.

“If you can nullify that threat it will help but it is difficult as they have such good kickers in their side and they have won the aerial battle so far which is so important.

“I never thought the aerial battle would be so important in rugby any more but it is again.

“Whatever happens, it will be an amazing occasion on Saturday.”

Davies, such a mesmerising and balanced No 10, made a brilliant man-of-the-match debut for Wales actually against England at the old Cardiff Arms Park in 1985.

He was the star of his generation, following in a long line of brilliant fly-halves such as Cliff Morgan, Barry John and Phil Bennett.

It was no surprise, therefore, with union still amateur, that rugby league came calling.

Davies made a world-record £230,000 switch to Widnes where his breathtaking skills – whether at stand-off, centre or full-back – quickly made him a hit in the 13-man code.

He helped Widnes lift the World Club Challenge in his first season, beating a Canberra Raiders side including world greats such as Mal Meninga and Laurie Daley and coached by current Hull KR chief Tim Sheens.

Such was Davies’s instant grip of the sport, he won the first of his 10 Great Britain caps in his first season, too, and later scored one of the most memorable tries in the Lions’ history, scorching clear to round Brett Mullins as they beat Australia at Wembley in 1994, the year he was named Man of Steel.

He had already commanded the admiration and respect of the hard-to-please Australia fans during a splendid 14-game spell with Canterbury Bulldogs in the Winfield Cup three years earlier.

By that point, after Widnes had hit financial problems, he had moved on to Warrington where he would enjoy great success again before returning to union later in his career.

Davies, though, revealed he twice came close to moving to clubs in the Broad Acres.

“Funnily enough, when I left Widnes for Warrington, I was approached by Wakefield through David Topliss and also by Castleford,” he said.

“But because Warrington was so close and my kids were at school and I wouldn’t have to move house, I thought that was the best option to go there.

“I didn’t want to move my family again and that was the main reason, really.

“But before I signed for Widnes I actually spent a weekend in Leeds.

“I stayed at the Queens Hotel and I was shown around Leeds by the lovely Harry Jepson.”

The legendary Jepson – who died aged 96 three years ago – was director of football at Headingley at the time and had already attracted Kangaroos stars such as Eric Grothe and Andrew Ettinghausen.

“What a lovely, lovely man,” recalled Davies. “Harry and his wife looked after me and I became friends with the pair of them. I loved Leeds. I loved the city and they took me around some great areas.

“I watched them train on Headingley cricket pitch and I thought Headingley was beautiful, too. But then Harry took me to a Yorkshire Cup quarter-final. It was a replay, I think, between Featherstone Rovers and Hull KR at Featherstone.

“I watched the game and it was absolutely brutal. It was hammer and tongs, really ferocious, under lights and as I watched it, I thought ‘Bloody hell, I’m not ready for this!’

“I carried on in Wales but if Harry had never taken me to watch that game I would probably have signed for Leeds.”