Rugby Union: Five Nations Focus: Davies ready to turn rejection into sweet revenge: The Wales coach almost lost his job at the start of the season. Now the Grand Slam beckons at Twickenham

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The Independent Online
IT HAS taken two momentous months for Alan Davies's job as Wales coach to turn from bed of nails to bed of roses. Wins over Scotland, France and Ireland, with a Grand Slam to follow if England are beaten on Saturday, have suddenly made him a man worth listening to - though when Wales lost to Canada in November his tenure was tenuous, his position precarious.

Yesterday, he made his first visit of the week to London, with Twickenham to follow, at the instigation of the Sports Writers' Association, an accolade usually reserved for English rugby identities.

Davies was born in Ynysybwl, a mining community near Pontypridd in south Wales, but he spent 36 years of his life in Nottingham and even aspired to be England coach before the Wales alternative even became a glint in a Welsh Rugby Union committee man's eye.

'When I was involved in rugby in England nobody trusted me

because I was Welsh; now I'm

involved in rugby in Wales nobody trusts me because I sound English,' he said in soft, but unmistakable, east Midlands tones. Davies was successively - and successfully - coach of Nottingham, the Midlands and England B long before returning to the land of his father.

'In 1984 there was a meeting of the English Rugby Football Union to decide whether a Welshman was eligible to coach a divisional side and eventually, through a lobby by some friends in the Midlands, it was said that I was eligible to coach. But there was no way that Alan

Davies as a Welshman was ever

going to coach England.'

Wales turned to him in extremis before the 1991 World Cup and it is impossible for him to avoid that victory - and with it the Grand Slam that England have come to

regard proprietorily - would represent a handsome revenge. At the time of his rejection as B coach in 1990 he was infuriated and incredulous because his team had just had a notable winning run.

How about this, then, for a poisoned barb about how he expects England to set about scoring their first try of the championship? 'It's crystal-clear: they will kick for position. There will be a line-out 10 metres out. The ball will be caught at two. Dean Richards will come in on the ball. Everything will stop. Dean and Brian Moore will get it all organised. They will drive the maul, roll and roll, to score . . .

very reminiscent of the Midlands team in 1985.' Davies's Midlands team.

It scarcely sounds exciting, but Davies does not mean it to. There is a propaganda battle going on this week which, for instance, dictated that the coach of Wales yesterday

expressed complete understanding, rather than scorn, that England have had umpteen penalties but no tries this season. (Wales have six tries.)

'Defenders are giving away penalties and England are scoring, so they are quite right to say it's not always dependent on tries. People cheat, the referees come in, you get a penalty and the kicker kicks a goal.' Just like that.

Tony Underwood has replaced the injured Stuart Barnes on the England bench for Saturday.

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