My grand goodbye for Wales: Rugby Union

Jonathan Davies predicts a day of emotion for him and Will Carling
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The Independent Online
It's going to be a day of swansongs at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday. In fact, there'll be more swans singing than fans what with the stadium itself staging its final Five Nations international, Will Carling talking of it being his last game for England and me making my farewell to the Welsh team.

I haven't yet given up hope of sneaking into the Lions squad but I hereby announce that I won't be seeking the old red shirt any more. By the time the next Five Nations' Championship comes around, I'll be 35 and while I am confident I've got enough in the tank to play at any level this season, another year will be asking too much.

I have no idea yet whether I'll be on the pitch on Saturday or biting my fingernails on the replacements bench but, either way, it will be my last time in the Welsh squad. I always promised myself that I would take my leave of the Welsh shirt at the very top. I thought I'd done that 18 months ago when I captained the Welsh rugby league team against England at Old Trafford in the World Cup semi-final, but destiny brought me back to union and has given me a chance I'd never dared dream about while I was in league.

My international debut was made against England in Cardiff in 1985 and 12 years later the wheel has dropped me back at the same game. For a Welshman, they don't come any bigger and whatever part I play it is a great privilege to share my departure with such an historic occasion.

As for club rugby, I shall take next season as it comes. I hope to stay associated with the game in an active capacity but whether I play or not will depend on how I feel in the summer.

Giving up playing rugby is a bit like giving up drinking. On a Sunday morning, when you have a hangover, it is easy to say "never again" and vow to pack it in. But it is the following Saturday night, when the boys are gathering, that the decision really means something. That's why I'm happy to give everything I've got until the end of the season and see how I feel when the hangover dies down.

I always said that I would keep playing as long as I was enjoying it. And I have found this season very enjoyable. It has been very hard on everyone because the scene has been so busy at international and club level. I am very proud that I'm still competing at the top. Any player in his international squad and whose club was in the European Cup has had big demands and I've been delighted at the way I've stood up to them. I've picked up a few bumps and bruises but who hasn't? For someone who has been written-off as often as I have, it has been a good chance to prove a few points and I trust I will see the season out in good fashion, even after Saturday, by helping Cardiff qualify for Europe and win the Welsh Cup. I have no doubts that we'll do it and I'll be there when we do.

I cracked a rib playing in the cup two weeks ago and, thanks to a pain- killing injection, played against Llanelli without knowing what I'd done. But I've missed a couple of games since to give it a rest and I feel fine now. I have too great a pride in my performance to kid anyone about my fitness and I am really up for any challenge, especially England.

Will Carling has been saying how this will probably be his last international. He is three years younger than me at 31 but I appreciate what is going through his mind. He wants to quit at the top, too. He has had a brilliant career but he senses it is time to take a break and step back to take a good look at what's left. He can still enjoy his club rugby and there's a lot of excitement to be had at that level these days.

What any player needs is stimulation and I was lucky to spend those years in league here and in Australia. It has given me a terrific career, and a very tough one, but more than anything it has kept my motivation at a very high level. And motivation is far more important than age.

As for Saturday's game, it will be the hardest Wales have faced this year. It is a great shame that the Grand Slam and the Triple Crown aren't at stake for both us, but there's more than enough to go for to make it a fitting climax for the old stadium.

England will be busting to make up for the French disappointment. There were many theories advanced for their second-half collapse but my own is summed up in the old rugby league saying - when you're cruising, you're losing.

I don't advise them to do any cruising on Saturday.

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