Weather puts Davies' big test on ice

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The Independent Online

Jonathan Davies' learning curve at centre was checked yesterday when the Scarlets' scheduled Magners League game at Munster today fell victim to the cold weather. Wales's latest midfield prodigy had been due to face the South African World Cup winner Jean de Villiers, but the match was called off after temperatures in Cork fell to -9C overnight, with worse forecast to follow.

"While our inspection this morning showed part of the pitch to be unplayable, the continuing use of the warm-air blanket would, in our opinion, have left the pitch playable by 5pm tomorrow if conditions remained as they are now," said the Munster chief executive, Garrett Fitzgerald. "However, given the forecast of lower temperatures and snow overnight, we felt it would be unfair to those travelling or planning to travel to leave a final decision until the morning."

Davies, who has a big reputation to live up to after breaking into the Wales team during the autumn internationals, suffered against the British Lions Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy last month, when the Scarlets were hammered by Leinster in the Heineken Cup. However, the Scarlets' head coach, the former Wales centre Nigel Davies, has retained faith in his player.

"He has come up against many world-class players over the last couple of months and acquitted himself well," the coach said. "You can train and coach as much as you like but the only way to develop is on the field playing top-class opposition week in, week out.

"Jonathan is a very young player in our squad yet, with the lack of maturity we've got, he has had to become a leader and a voice very quickly within the squad. He's generally a shy and quiet lad off the field but given the circumstances he's had to communicate, he's had to interact and had to have an opinion. All the best players in the world have an opinion because they understand the game and know what the game needs at any one time to make an impact. Jon has done that and grown up very quickly."

Davies' regional and international team-mate Mark Jones, who is currently out with a knee injury, is set to sign a new long-term deal this week and continue his 13-year association with Llanelli.

Of the 30-year-old wing, Nigel Davies said: "We're in discussions with Mark about a new contract and negotiations are ongoing. He's a true Scarlet and all being well, he's happy to stay with the region.

"He's done very well as club captain this season and we're keen for him to stay. He's key to us moving forward."

The Scarlets' next match is at home to London Irish in the Heineken Cup a week today.

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