Cardiff busy accommodating the prodigal son

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Cardiff had not expected their middling Welsh First Division fixture against Aberavon to be so sharp a focus of attention - not until Tuesday, anyway. Then all of a sudden, the repatriation of Jonathan Davies from rugby league made it a historic occasion.

Interesting, is it not, that the presence of one man should persuade a club to defer a match for 24 hours to Sunday and summon live TV, especially when you consider that man has not played rugby union for nigh-on seven years and has had the benefit of precisely one comeback training session as a born-again union player.

There are many assumptions being made, the first being that Davies will seamlessly fit into the old code - whether it be at full-back, where he plays tomorrow, or outside-half, where he represented Wales in his previous incarnation. Next is that he will as easily go on to play again for Wales, perhaps even as captain.

Spare a thought, then, for Adrian Davies, Cardiff outside-half and captain tomorrow. If the other Davies ultimately has designs on his place, the club selectors will find them hard to resist, though Adrian, too, is an international player. "I'm not in the firing-line any more than anyone else in the backs," he insisted.

"Jonathan will have to fit in where the selection panel want him and he will have to oust an international wherever he plays. It's a positive move for Welsh rugby but the talk of him going straight into the Welsh side is ludicrous. He hasn't played a game of rugby for seven years."

Well, not the game of rugby Cardiff play. News that would otherwise be of some concern - the return after injury of Mike Hall, who may be bound for Wasps, and Nigel Walker - is merely a subtext to the main plot. With Pontypridd playing the Fijians today, Cardiff will resume at the top if they win.

Had Davies - Jonathan, that is - not been so keen to return home, he might well have been playing instead for Harlequins, who expressed interest at an early stage but could not convince him of the irresistible delights of London. Today Quins, their advances also rebuffed by the England lock, Martin Bayfield, play Leicester at The Stoop.

The Tigers' chances improved with yesterday's withdrawal of Quins' luckless David Pears, who missed out to Mike Catt, of Bath, in this week's England outside-half selection.

Catt, too, is injured, so misses the game at Sale, where a win will maintain the leaders' 100 per cent record at the First Division's half-way point. But of equal concern to Bath is the predatory activity of their former England scrum-half, Richard Hill, in his new capacity as Gloucester's director of coaching.

The Kingsholm club have established a fighting fund of indeterminate size to seduce new players, though the retention of the 120-day qualifying period would minimise their contribution to Gloucester's fight against relegation. Hill's past connection made his old club an obvious target, and Jonathan Callard, Richard Butland and Eric Peters are thought to be targets.

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