SAM Davies let his heart rule his head when it came to deciding where to play his rugby next season. In the end he opted to sever his seven-year link with the Ospreys and move up the M4 to the Dragons.
He would have got a lot more money had he stayed on the motorway and headed into England, but at the top of his priorities was playing for Wales.
It was a decision that came at a pretty heavy price for the 25-year-old outside-half who is desperate to add to the eight caps he has already won. He has taken a pay cut of around £50,000 to join the Dragons and stay in the hunt for the priceless Welsh No 10 jersey.
“That is part of life and I’ve bitten the bullet. It is for the right reasons and this is a good move for me,” Davies told The Rugby Paper. “The red of Wales has got a place in my heart and I don’t want to lose the chance to play again for Wales – it is as simple as that.”
With the Welsh regions still haemorrhaging cash, the new pay banding system for players has begun to bite hard. Davies, it is understood, was offered similar deals by the Ospreys and Dragons, but on a much reduced rate to his previous pay packet worth in the region of £200,000-a-year.
Davies’ maximum wage under the new system is £160,000. After 150 games for the Ospreys, in which he scored 836 points, it represents a sizeable drop from his old wage. Increase your odds of winning with these free spins you can try for free here.
“When all the financial rubbish was going on at the regions I did think my best option might have been leaving Wales,” Davies added.
“Then I met with David Buttress (Dragons chairman) and his ambitions and plans for the Dragons helped to restore a bit of confidence in Welsh rugby again.
“You lose it when all the stuff about banding comes in. You have to take pay cuts and you know you can earn more money elsewhere, but then you think about playing for your country.
“That makes you think, ‘Hang on a minute’. It is tough, but it was a lot tougher for many other boys who may not have been so lucky to get a club.
“There was a day when we thought the Ospreys were going and we were joining with the Scarlets. For that to happen in Welsh rugby given I grew up watching the Scarlets playing the Ospreys in one of the biggest derbies in the game was unheard of and there was uproar.”
Davies made his debut for Wales against Australia in 2016 and then started at No.10 in the two Test victories on the 2017 summer tour against Tonga and Samoa.
Having grown up in the shadow of Dan Biggar, left, it seemed Davies was ready to emerge as the successor when Biggar left for Northampton. It didn’t pan out that way with Davies forced to share the No.10 jersey with Luke Price, who has signed a new Ospreys deal to be back-up to Anscombe.
“I like to think I’m not even halfway through my career and there is a lot more to come. I hope my best years are still ahead of me,” said Davies.
“I’ve got to get back to the form I was in two years ago when I was being used as a ball player. There have been glimpses of it, but I haven’t been as consistent as I would have liked to have been.
“As a professional sports person you have to be able to cope with the pressure and criticism that can come your way. I struggled the season before last because I had gone from such a high in my career of starting for Wales in the two summer Tests to coming back and not playing at my best because I was carrying a knock.
“I learned from that and I probably shouldn’t have played. It took me out of the Welsh picture and ever since then it has been hard for me to get back in.
“Even if I had been playing well, people haven’t been recognising it. Now this is a fresh start for me and, with a new coaching team coming in for Wales at the end of the year, I hope I can get some recognition again.”
ROB COLE / Photo: Getty Images
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