RUGBY UNION : Pressure on Davies after JPR resigns

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The Independent Online
The position of Alan Davies, the Wales coach, was becoming increasingly fraught last night after the resignation of J P R Williams and the threat of a similar dramatic gesture by Geoff Evans.

Both British Lions had distanced themselves from the management before Wales's defeat by Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday, which left Davies holding not only the wooden spoon but an unwanted record: he is the first Wales coach to lose five matches in a row.

Davies, as any Welsh coach would testify in a land where the game is a way of life, was already under pressure, and the fact that J P R, Wales's most capped player, had resigned from his role as an adviser will probably bring the issue to a head this week. Evans is one of six selectors - the others are Davies, Robert Norster, Gareth Jenkins, Derek Quinnell and Elgan Rees - and both he and J P R decided to rebel after a seven-hour selection meeting.

A heated debate appears to have centred around the dropping of Derwyn Jones and Hemi Taylor from the team to play Ireland. It is understood that J P R and Evans wanted Taylor to play at No 8 and after the midnight oil had been burnt were under the impression that that would be the case. However, when the team was announced the next day, Taylor and Jones had been omitted.

J P R put his resignation in a post-dated letter; Evans's action was more deliberate. In a statement yesterday the former London Welsh, Wales and Lions lock said: "As far as I'm concerned there was a serious disagreement on a matter of principle for the selection for the Ireland match. I wrote to the other selectors expressing my concern and telling them that I would consider my position as a selector but that nothing would happen until after the Ireland game."

Evans will raise the matter at a meeting of the powerful National Player Development Committee a week today. While Evans is chairman of that committee, Alan Davies is not a member. Responding to the split by Evans and J P R, Davies said yesterday: "It's news to me. I'll have to speak to them. We never vote on selection matters. At the end of the day, as chairman of selectors, it is my team. If there are any contentious issues we sleep on them before making a final decision and that's what happened in this case. We are never in full agreement. Selectors often have strong views but I can't understand why it should have gone this far."

Davies was due to announce his World Cup squad on Thursday - "if the meeting takes place," Evans said. Davies and Norster took over just before the 1991 World Cup and their record is played 35, won 18, lost 17.