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The extraordinarily talented Davies brothers: Two very different personalities and their chances of playing together for Wales again

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Someone once reckoned the best evidence that time travel is impossible is that we haven’t been invaded by tourists from the future.

But, still, let’s imagine it were possible to set the DeLorean to 2010 and head for Carmarthen Quins on match day.

Instantly, the assumption is, anyone making such a journey would recognise the Quins No. 7 doing his stuff on the pitch.

But if our intrepid traveller wandered into the dressing room the chances are he would be more than a bit perplexed.

For James Davies appeared cut from a different cloth a decade or so ago. Whisper it, but one of Welsh rugby’s most colourful characters was seen as being quiet. Diffident, even.

He had yet to morph into the exuberant character he is today, with a persona bright enough to shine through at the Olympics in 2016, when he competed for Britain in the rugby sevens, later recalling, tongue in cheek: “You go for food and stuff and you are sat next to Michael Phelps, and Usain Bolt is walking in — us three got asked for photos a lot in the village.”

A world away from his early days at Carmarthen Quins.

“He was really shy,” recalled the club’s rugby manager Steff Thomas.

“The first time he came over to us he brought his dad with him and the second time, when we were discussing a match fee, he brought his brother Jonathan across.

“James was just very quiet — a head-down, looking-at-the-floor sort of boy — an introvert, almost.

“It’s amazing to see how he’s grown as a person.”

James and Jonathan Davies with their dad at an NFL game at Wembley
James and Jonathan Davies with their dad at an NFL game at Wembley

BIG BROTHER AND ALL THAT

Much water, indeed, has passed under the Loughor Bridge since.

Last summer the siblings, who are currently both recovering from injuries, created history when they took the field for Wales against England in Cardiff.

Never before had two brothers played together for Wales while featuring at club or regional level for either Llanelli or the Scarlets. Understandably, it meant a huge amount to them and their parents.

Jonathan, of course, had long since scaled the heights, boasting a CV with a ‘man of the series, Lions v New Zealand, 2017’ entry.

But it’s to his immense credit he has always looked out for his younger brother, always wanted to him to succeed.

“Jonathan is a smashing guy who is always happy to stop and talk,” said Les Williams, master stats man and historian of Llanelli rugby and everything to do with it.

“When James won his first cap in 2018 I bumped into Jonathan in the car park and he couldn’t have been happier for his brother, saying: ‘I hope one day we get the chance to play in the same team’.

“It was brilliant when it happened.

“They are like chalk and cheese in many ways but both are good boys.”

James Davies in action during the Hong Kong Sevens in 2014

DIFFERENT SORTS

It’s strange how two brothers can be so different.

If Jonathan has made a false step in a media interview, someone really ought to tell us when and where such an event took place. He is confident, sure-footed and says the right things, a press officer’s dream.

When the 80-cap centre speaks with the media, the aforementioned press officer knows there are not going to be banner headlines the next morning above a story that contains outrageous quotes or observations.

It is fair to say different rules apply with Davies junior.

His response in 2018 as to why Wales were producing so may outstanding opensides was one that could best be classed as post-watershed, involving as it did a line that some, er, politically incorrect comics at the Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club back in the day might have thought twice about unleashing on the punters.

And there’s the ‘Cubby Boi’ tattoo on his knuckles, a work of art that reputedly came about as a result of a £1,000 bet with Rhys Priestland ahead of a lads’ trip to Las Vegas.

James celebrates winning the PRO12

Cubby, as Davies the younger is known, was also hit by a three-week suspension after using foul language and making an obscene gesture during a European Champions Cup match — “what I did was the most stupid thing I have done on a rugby field,” he admitted later.

But within weeks of returning from his ban he encountered more controversy when he was accused of diving after being on the wrong end of a slap from Saracens lock Will Skelton.

An angry Sarries director of rugby Mark McCall piled in, declaring he would be devastated if any of his players acted that way, while former England hooker Brian Moore accused Davies of ‘cheating by exaggeration’ and urged World Rugby and referees to act to stop diving creeping into the sport.

Davies’s response? A tweet showing Skelton’s head photoshopped on a boxer’s body with a smiling Davies laying prone on the canvas and McCall and Moore watching on.

The most highly-paid media officer could not have done better,

Clever use of humour had defused a tricky situation, while Davies junior showed enough maturity thereafter for Wayne Pivac to say the player had grown into a leadership role at the Scarlets.

FOXY AND CUBBY

Brothers James Davies and Jonathan Davies during training

It’s quite some distance from those early days with Carmarthen Quins.

“I think his confidence grew as he developed as a rugby player,” said Steff Thomas.

“He became a joker and was well liked at the club.

“He coined the phrase ‘Q for ever’ as in Quins for life.

“When time allows, we see him at the odd game, while he’s still in touch with many of the boys he played with, which says a lot about him. I think he remembers his time at Quins very fondly.

“I know Jonathan a bit, too, and it’s quite sobering when you have a chat with him. Although he has a bit of banter in him, he’s quite serious and plays it by the book, whereas James is different.

“That said, there’s the potential for James to be misunderstood.

“But he’s been true to himself and strong enough to be himself, which is important.”

The two brothers famously acquired their nicknames as their parents ran the Fox and Hounds pub in Bancyfelin. Jonathan became known as ‘Foxy’, with James ending up as ‘Cubby’.

The tales of the two battling in the garden are well known, with James once telling The Guardian: “Luckily the pub had a nice big park area which was our back garden. There were no iPhones or iPads so me and my brother would just be out playing football and rugby. That’s where my skill levels come from.”

Who usually won? “Silly question. I used to run rings around him. Whenever anyone scored a screamer in football they had to lie on their back like Paul Gascoigne and be squirted with water bottles. Good times.”

But the two were to take different roads to the top.

Jonathan’s progress was seamless: a Test debut at 21, two Lions tours, a stint as his region’s captain, a lorryload of caps for Wales, time abroad and back home.

By contrast, James was not even offered a professional contract until he was 23.

But he gives the impression of having enjoyed it all.

In that Guardian interview he came up with the line that might be one day be seen as his rugby epitaph: “I’d rather have fun and eventually achieve my goal rather than be more boring and have a lot more caps.”

A PRICE FOR EXUBERANCE?

Has his exuberant personality really denied him more Test outings?

“I wouldn’t say so,” says Steff Thomas.

“He’s been playing during a time when there’s been a queue of candidates for the seven jersey, some of them world-class, like Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric.

“Maybe people are just looking for something that’s not there rather than looking at the real picture.

“James has probably learned to harness his character and use some of the banter and all the rest at the right time.

“But it’s all part of growing up and learning.”

Along the way there have been challenges for Davies to deal with. “Ah,” laughs Thomas. “I remember we were out on a Quins social and were sat at the bar when some guy clocked James with his baby face and started picking on him.

“This guy kept going on and on.

“James got up and I thought he was going to the toilet.

“I said: ‘If you are going to the toilet, go the proper way. Don’t be scared of that man’.

“He said: ‘No, I’m not going to the toilet. I’m going this way’.

“He went past me and over to the guy. They went eyeball to eyeball before James gave him a few taps and that was the end of it.

“We were all sitting there, open-mouthed.

“James loves that story. He exaggerates it, too, saying no one had sorted out that guy in 20 years.”

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THE CUT-ABOVE CUB

Thomas continues: “What I remember James for most is his rugby.

“I went to watch an age-grade match and there was this kid who was clearly a cut above.

“He was tremendous, even at that young age.

“What caught my eye was his ability to jackal. It set him apart an absolute mile.

“He was so gutsy and willing to put himself in positions where other kids wouldn’t go.

“After we signed him, there were four or five turnovers a game — minimum. It’s always been his number one quality on the field, that ability to steal opposition ball.

“He fought his way into the team and established himself.

“But you could see he always had more in him.”

Jonathan Davies celebrates with the Six Nations trophy after title success with Wales

FORTUNATE

Jonathan once declared James to be the better rugby player of the two.

That might surprise some, coming from a man who has excelled on the last two Lions tours.

Let’s just say they are both top-drawer at what they do.

James is recovering from hip surgery right now, with Jonathan on the mend after the knee injury he sustained at the World Cup. But the hope is both will be fit for the autumn.

Will they play for Wales together again?

Where’s that old crystal ball when you need it most?

But let’s be bold and say there seems a decent chance.

When rugby does spring back into life, the expectation is there’ll be a glut of internationals to follow, with Test rugby important in funding the rest of the sport.

Rotation might be the name of the game and so a significant pool of players could be involved.

Whatever, it will just be good to see the two brothers back on the pitch.

When they are fit and firing, Welsh rugby is a better place.



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7s World Cup

World Rugby hope for Japan tournament news this year – Gilpin

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World Rugby


World Rugby

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World Rugby considers Japan to be at “rugby’s top table” and are hoping for news later this year on which tournament the top Asian nation will slot into after the 2023 Rugby World Cup, according to chief executive officer Alan Gilpin.

Japan have shown interest in being included in the Rugby Championship, the southern hemisphere’s tier one tournament that features world champions South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina and Australia.

But the Covid-19 pandemic that hit after the 2019 Rugby World Cup hosted by Japan has not helped accelerate any concrete decision, at least in public.

“There’s no doubt Japan is at rugby’s top table,” Gilpin said at the Olympic men’s rugby sevens tournament.

Japan reached the quarter-finals of the 2019 World Cup, going unbeaten in pool play with victories over Ireland, Scotland, Samoa and Russia before losing to eventual winners South Africa.

“We’re working fairly hard behind the scene on the global calendar with all the different stakeholders involved and Japan feature really highly in that in terms of post-Rugby World Cup 2023, where they can fit in to those established competitions,” Gilpin said.

“I think there’ll be more news on that hopefully later in the year.”

Gilpin said he regretted Japan had not had the opportunity to capitalise on the “fantastic success” of the World Cup.

“It’s been such a shame for Japan and Japanese rugby that they haven’t had the opportunity in the last 18 months to really continue that journey, although (they had) some really good showings against the British and Irish Lions and Ireland recently.”

The key to Japan’s continued success was to ensure they can “continue to have quality fixtures, certainty of competition and a real pathway going forward”.

“The lack of rugby being played in Japan in the last 18 months is not the legacy any of us were planning for,” Gilpin added.

“Notwithstanding that, what we know we have as a legacy is more people playing rugby in Japan, more interest in rugby in Japan… We’ll see that legacy really build from now.”

Turning to the pandemic-delayed Olympics, where the high-octane, abbreviated game of sevens is making its second appearance after debuting in Rio in 2016, Gilpin admitted it had been a “uniquely challenging journey for everybody involved”.

“Rugby’s inclusion in the Olympic Games has certainly had a profound effect on the advancement of our sport,” he said.

But the sport of sevens is facing its own problems, with federations cutting national progammes and players’ contracts amid budget constraints.

Dan Libby, playing for a combined British team in Tokyo, has called the last 12 months “the most difficult year of my life” as coronavirus-enforced lockdowns combined with contractual uncertainty for England’s sevens squad.

“Who knows what is going to happen after this? I do know that we’re treating every game as our last,” Libby said.

Gilpin said the difficulties sevens has experienced had been shared by many sports at the Tokyo Games.

World Rugby was working “to re-imagine what the future of sevens is” and “make sure the Sevens Series, going forward, is as financially and, from a game perspective, sustainable as it can be”, he said.

In reference to the Sevens Series, which for 2021 has been reduced to six tournaments — two in Canada and one each in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai and Cape Town — Gilpin said: “We’re confident we can make (it) happen later this year… we’ve just got to continue to work with all those different stakeholders.”

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Rugby isn’t quite dead yet, and neither are the Lions

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THE BREAKDOWN, STEVE SCOTT: Rugby isn’t quite dead yet, and neither are the Lions

































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7s World Cup

HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 schedule updated

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World Rugby (August 4, 2021) 

 

• Following rugby sevens’ successful second appearance at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 will return with a pair of men’s Series events, combined with women’s fast-four tournaments in Canada, with Vancouver on 18-19 September followed by Edmonton on 25-26 September

• The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens will not take place in November 2021 due to Covid-19 impacts, however the popular event will return to the Series on 1-3 April 2022

• The HSBC Paris Sevens women’s event, originally scheduled for May, will also not take place in 2021, meaning a total of five men’s and two women’s rounds are planned to take place in the final four months of 2021

• The health and welfare of players, teams and all involved remains the top priority as all stakeholders continue to closely monitor global developments with the COVID-19 pandemic

Following the thrilling and very successful Olympic competitions in Tokyo, rugby sevens returns to HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series action on 18-19 September with BC Place in Vancouver hosting the first event of the 2021 Series, which sees a men’s Series event combined with a women’s fast-four tournament.

The following weekend, on 25-26 September, the teams will switch venues in Canada to compete again at the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, which will host a HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series event for the first time and was the venue of the Rugby World Cup 2006 final.

World Rugby, its event hosts and participating unions remain committed to delivering an exciting programme of series events for the world’s best men’s and women’s sevens teams. However, as with all sports of a global nature, adjustments are inevitable within a challenging and dynamic COVID-19 environment.

Due to this uncertainty, travel restrictions and other impacts of the global pandemic, the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) and World Rugby have taken the difficult decision to cancel the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2021, which was scheduled for 5-7 November.

The decision follows detailed and constructive dialogue between World Rugby, the HKRU, participating unions and relevant Hong Kong government bodies, and has been taken with the health and wellbeing of the rugby community and the wider public as the top priority.

The date for the 2022 Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens has been set for 1-3 April, meaning there are just 239 days to go until international rugby sevens action returns to one of its most famous homes in Hong Kong.

It has also been decided that the HSBC Paris Sevens women’s event, which was originally scheduled to take place in Marcoussis in May, will also not take place in 2021 due to Covid-19 impacts.

The updated 2021 Series now includes five men’s and two women’s rounds planned to take place in the final four months of the year.

VIEW HSBC WORLD RUGBY SEVENS SERIES 2021 SCHEDULE >>

World Rugby, tournament hosts and participating unions will continue to work closely with the relevant national governments and health agencies to ensure the safe and secure delivery of the scheduled events.

The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2022 schedule will be announced in due course in what is set to be a supercharged year for rugby sevens with the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England on 29-31 July, and Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa on 9-11 September.

WATCH HSBC WORLD RUGBY SEVENS SERIES HYPE VIDEO >>

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “Over six days of thrilling competition at Tokyo 2020 we again witnessed the incredible skills, athleticism, determination and unique values of solidarity and respect that make rugby sevens such a unique and popular sport on the Olympic programme and with fans around the globe.

“The inclusion of rugby sevens for the first time in the Olympic Games at Rio 2016 attracted an estimated 30 million new fans globally and the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series presents us with a great opportunity to build on the positive effects of competing on the Olympic stage.

“While it is obviously very disappointing not to be able to go ahead with two of our planned Sevens Series events in Hong Kong and Paris in 2021, the decisions have been taken with the health and wellbeing of the rugby community and the wider public as top priority, and following extensive consultation with the host organisations, participating unions and relevant government bodies.

“The future of rugby sevens is very bright and players, teams and fans can look ahead to a very busy and exciting year in 2022 when the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series will be followed by Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England. Fans in Hong Kong can already mark their calendars and look forward to the return of the Sevens Series on 1-3 April 2022.”

“We sincerely thank HSBC and all Series partners, hosts and participating teams for their continued commitment, support and understanding as we continue to work together to navigate the ongoing and dynamic scenario with the Covid-19 pandemic across the world.

“We continue to work with all respective governments, health agencies, stakeholders and partners to ensure the Series events meet relevant Covid-19 requirements as the health and wellbeing of players, fans and all involved remains paramount.”

HSBC Group Head of Brand and Brand Partnerships Jonathan Castleman said: “As long-term global partner to the sport of rugby sevens, we support the difficult decision taken by World Rugby, the Hong Kong Rugby Union and the French Rugby Federation not to go ahead with the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens and HSBC Paris Sevens in 2021. While disappointing, the safety and welfare of the players and fans must remain the priority at all times.

“We are also thrilled that the Tokyo Olympics have been such an incredible showpiece for the game and a reminder of what we have all been missing. We will continue to support World Rugby as we look ahead to the remainder of 2021 and into the 2022 series to ensure that rugby sevens continues to open up and create opportunities for players, fans and the rugby community around the world.”

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