By Steffan Thomas
UNABLE to walk and with his foot in plaster following another horror injury, Jonathan Davies was forced to turn to his uncle’s mobility scooter as a way of escaping the tedium of daytime television.
As he ferried himself around Cardiff on a device more commonly used by those of a certain age, doubts understandably crept into the mind of the Wales and Scarlets centre.
Would he ever be the same player again? How long would it take him to return from the latest in a long line of injury blows? And, most, presently, how was he going to make it back from the shops?
These were very real problems for the now 30-year-old at the turn of the year but as someone who has started the last six Tests for the British & Irish Lions and who was man of the series in New Zealand, Davies doesn’t give up easily. He’s back fit and as determined as ever.
A horror foot injury suffered against Australia last December ruined the rest of the former Clermont man’s season, but that is now in the past. The present and the future is the only focus.
“It was very tough at first. It was a non-weight bearing injury for six weeks and I was hopping about all over the place,” Davies told The Rugby Paper. “I have to thank my uncle for lending me his mobility scooter and that helped a lot. It was difficult and the worst injury I have had.”
Davies has had his fair share of bad luck in the past – a knee ligament injury forced him to miss the 2015 World Cup – but his injury against Australia was more than unfortunate. With the clock red and Wales braced for their 13th straight defeat to the Wallabies, he claimed a kick-off, was tackled by Marika Koroibete, and immediately looked in trouble.
The contact itself seemed innocuous, but the result was severe. Davies said: “I have not watched it back. I knew it hurt so I didn’t need to see it again and you could tell by my face I was in pain. I think my foot just collapsed.
“It was not ideal and when the clock turns red next time, I will be booting the ball into touch. I wasn’t sure if I had done my knee again as well because I bent back over it.
“So when the physio ran on and asked what was wrong, I said foot and knee. I was more worried about my knee initially, but that was fine and my foot was in agony.
“The injuries are the worst side of rugby and your body just gets battered these days. Unfortunately the more you get used to rugby, the more you get used to injuries. When I knew I was going to be out for a period of time, I was disappointed, but I was able to handle it a lot better than the past.”
Davies broke two of his metatarsals, tore the Lisfranc ligament, and had a plate and five screws inserted into his foot. The return to action has been protracted, but worthwhile.
The aim is to come back as good if not better than ever. Considering his stunning form of 2017 it will take some doing, but Davies still has plenty of hunger to achieve at the highest level.
“When you’re in rehab balancing on wobble balls and working with tennis balls, you try and use that as developing a new skill that will help you,” Davies said.
“It’s about making sure you can see a purpose to it and the part I’ve enjoyed being away from the game is getting myself ready to be able to get back to the standards I was at before.
“I won’t know until my first game, but I would like to think I can get back to 100 per cent as I have been able to get my body in good shape.”
Davies is likeable and an engaging interviewee, not to mention a world-class operator. He states winning the Champions Cup with the Scarlets as the one thing missing from his career CV.
“We are capable of winning the Champions Cup especially if you look at the performances we put together last year in the group stages and in particular away from home,” Davies said.
“It is the toughest competition to win and the teams who have won it multiple times have a structure and a culture which gives them the belief they know they can win.
“But I do think we have the foundations here of a squad that can go on to win it. Over the last few years at the Scarlets we’ve developed a winning culture. We’ve got used to winning.
“I think that’s a mentality the jersey here deserves to have.”
Scarlets have been drawn in a tough Champions Cup pool alongside Racing 92, Leicester and Ulster but Davies believes Wayne’s Pivac’s savvy summer recruitment could yet enable his team to be crowned kings of Europe in ten months’ time.
“We are building strength in depth and with the way we train, we’ve got youngsters who are able to slot in and be comfortable in the way we play,” Davies said.
“That’s down to the coaching and the talent we have in the squad and one of the big differences now is we are able to add quality from outside to supplement our home grown players.
“Guys like Clayton Blommetjies, Uzair Cassiem, Blade Thomson and Kieron Fonotia will come in and push us on. We did lose some good players last year, but it’s now about making sure you replace quality with quality and that’s what we’ve done.”
There is also the prospect of the World Cup in Japan. After missing out last time it would be fitting for a player of Davies’ quality to grace rugby’s biggest stage again.
Both he and Warren Gatland will be hoping the scooter stays in his uncle’s possession.
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