Professional coaches may be a hard-bitten bunch, capable of surviving serious shocks to the system while remaining in gainful employment, but defeat by Zebre, the weak Italian Pro 12 team who barely know what it is to celebrate victory, is a trauma too far. Phil Davies, the former Wales No 8 who has run Cardiff Blues as rugby director since 2012, resigned yesterday and left the Arms Park with immediate effect less than 24 hours after a humiliating reverse in Parma against opponents who had been forced to call on a number of part-time players.
Davies, who lost a home game to Zebre in September, made his announcement shortly after a meeting with the regional side’s chief executive, Richard Holland. “This is a decision I have not taken lightly,” the coach said.
“It is one I’ve made in view of my future career and past experiences in professional rugby.” For his part, Holland spoke warmly of Davies’ achievements on the player development front, adding: “He has overseen a period of massive change and I’m sure we will see the benefits of his work.”
Gloucester, whose struggles in the Premiership this term have left them in a place not dissimilar to the Blues, are thought to be closing in on the Scotland scrum-half, principal goal-kicker and captain Greig Laidlaw, who plays for Edinburgh.
A versatile individual who was unlucky to miss out on British and Irish Lions selection last summer, Laidlaw is regarded as a high-quality replacement for the England outside-half Freddie Burns, who will definitely leave Kingsholm at the end of the season and is expected to join Leicester.
London Irish, meanwhile, have lost one of their major recent signings, the Springbok prop C J Van der Linde, for the foreseeable future. The World Cup-winning forward has returned to South Africa for surgery on a damaged pectoral muscle.