Davies goes home to build Wales base with the Blues

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The Independent Online

It is not all sweetness and light in Welsh rugby despite the Six Nations Grand Slam: the four regional sides are struggling for crowds, struggling for finance and, as a consequence, struggling to hang on to their best talent in the face of big-money raids from France.

So the experienced and highly regarded coach Phil Davies could have chosen a better time to abandon the relative security at the top end of the English club game and head home.

Yet Davies knew he had to take the plunge at some point if he was to position himself for a tilt at international coaching when Warren Gatland ends his time with Wales, probably after the 2015 World Cup. Hence the former No 8 and Test captain's decision to leave the Premiership side Worcester after two seasons and move to Cardiff Blues as director of rugby.

"It's a job I've been passionate about for a long time," Davies said. "The Blues cover a massive region, the biggest in Wales, and it's a great opportunity to build on the foundations laid over the last eight or nine years.

"There is a lot of change happening and with that comes an element of uncertainty. With that in mind there will be growing pains as we develop the capabilities of a very talented group of players and staff. It's important that people understand it's going to take time, but we are on the starting line of something really exciting."

One of the best-qualified coaches in Britain and an outstanding talent-spotter, Davies would surely succeed Gatland if he delivers a trophy for the Blues in the next couple of seasons.

Among other coaching moves, the South Africans have confirmed their back-room staff for the new season, which begins with the three-match home series against England in June. Heyneke Meyer, appointed to the top job earlier this year, has spent the last few weeks trying to recruit support staff from his old provincial team, the Pretoria-based Blue Bulls, but discussions over financial compensation proved awkward. The deal was finally sealed yesterday, however, and Johann van Graan, Ricardo Loubscher and John McFarland will join the national set-up as forwards, backs and defence specialists respectively.

Two notable retirements yesterday: David Wallace, long-serving Munster, Ireland and Lions flanker, called time after a long struggle with a knee injury, and sadly the promising Bath lock Scott Hobson has given up the game at 24 with a shoulder problem.