Davies keen on immediate return to union

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Jonathan Davies met with Gareth Davies, the Cardiff chief executive, yesterday and expressed his willingness to return immediately to rugby union if Warrington could be persuaded to release him from the remaining 21 months of his rugby league contract.

There was even a suggestion that the stand-off had already signed - albeit provisionally - for Cardiff but, whatever happened, he was surprisingly upset that news of the meeting of the Davieses had leaked out. It is clearly a sensitive matter to be talking to one club in one code while contracted to another in another.

Davies, who spent his senior union career with Neath and Llanelli, has also been linked with Harlequins. It would be a historic day if the transition took place and, though he is nearly 33 and has been gone nearly six years, by far the most encouraging development in Welsh rugby during all that time.

Not long ago such a possibility would have been unthinkable. Davies's way has been cleared by the International Rugby Football Board's acceptance last weekend of a free gangway from rugby league into the newly professionalised rugby union and already the Australian lock Garrick Morgan has taken advantage.

The Rugby Football Union in England favours a six-month stand-down for converts - thereby making the Harlequins option impossibly unattractive - but the Welsh have no such compunction and would be only too happy to have Davies and anyone else whenever they could come.

He will not be alone. "Jonathan will set the ground-rules for everyone else," David Young, like Davies in Cardiff for the Rugby League World Cup, said. Phil Ford, another member of the Welsh squad, said yesterday during a visit to the Arms Park that he intended rejoining union at the end of the tournament. Ford would be keen to join his brother, Steve, at Cardiff, with Pontypridd a possible alternative.

Warrington will determine in the next week whether to release Davies and for how much. Cardiff's interest has caused them to appreciate that their asset has a value over and above the salary they would save but Davies appears to have made up his mind and Cardiff are impatient to sign him before the Heineken League cut-off point at the end of the month.

While Gareth Davies was preparing to meet Graham Armstrong, the Warrington chief executive, Peter Higham, the chairman, was declaring that Cardiff had made no approach and no negotiations were taking place. Which used to be the way chairmen talked when they were about to conclude a major signing from rugby union.

However, Higham did make his club's position clear: "Jonathan is under contract until 30 June 1997 and if he was to leave before then we would expect to be compensated as we would in the case of any player."

This may be less of a stumbling block than it appeared yesterday. "We told them quite clearly that there is no big money available in Wales to buy out contracts," Gareth Davies said. "The position is that they have to ask themselves whether they have an unhappy player not performing to his best or whether they allow him to return."

Yesterday Jonathan Davies' only comment, on BBC Radio was: "If I'm going to make a move again it's back to Wales. The family want to come home and hopefully it can be sorted out on friendly terms."

John Dawes, the former Wales and Lions captain and coach, has already called for his reinstatement, not just as Wales's outside-half but as captain as soon as he is re-signed.

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