As if Warren Gatland did not have enough to occupy his mind as he tries to stop the rot of Wales's eight-Test winless run, he spent yesterday dreading a call from the Six Nations disciplinarians. Video replays appear to show Jonathan Davies tripping England's match-winner Chris Ashton during Friday night's Championship opener.
Yesterday at the team hotel, while pleading his innocence, Davies admitted he was concerned about the consequences. The precedents suggest that, if found guilty, the young inside centre would face at least a one-match ban, ruling him out of Murrayfield next Saturday. Jean-Etienne Bernard, the citing commissioner, has until 9.40pm today to make a decision regarding the incident in the second half which apparently went unnoticed by the referee, Alain Rolland, or his assistants.
"I got a couple of messages from the boys saying that people on TV were talking about a possible citing – hopefully nothing will come of it," said Davies. "I didn't mean to trip him up at all. I'm not a dirty player. I don't think there's any need for a citing."
Others don't agree. Brian Moore, the former Lions hooker and BBC summariser, called it a "disgrace" while his colleague Jeremy Guscott labelled Davies' actions "calculating" and "deliberate". The accused denied all charges. "All I remember is that the ball was on the floor I tried to kick it forward and caught his leg," said Davies. "There were no bad intentions at all. I held my hands up when it happened as I didn't want people to get the wrong idea. I didn't mean to do that at all."
In the event of a hearing, the Welsh camp would ask for the panel to look at the incident in "real time". Their, and Davies's, defence would be that the slow-motion replays make it appear far worse. Ashton's pick-up, they would claim, occurred in a split-second. However, if the 22-year-old's fears do prove true it would be a further headache for Gatland. Davies was one of his side's more accomplished performers, the Scarlet creating Wales's solitary try with an arcing run. With centre options limited due to injuries, Gatland would probably be forced to move James Hook into the midfield, thereby scrapping any plan he might have of employing his mercurial talents at fly-half.
As ever in a Welsh inquest, the spotlight falls on the No 10. Before the match, Gatland revealed there had been a "long debate" of moving Hook to the play-making role, and even with Davies's likely absence, that debate will rage until Tuesday's team announcement.
The truth is, however, that Stephen Jones was not the problem. Wales created the chances, but failed to convert them. It is a familiar charge in the last few months which have seen the Dragonhood's last four losses come at an average of eight points. Each time, Gatland claimed "we had opportunities to win" and urged his men to be more clinical in thought and practice.
That remains the party line, but with the winless run now stretching back 11 months, confidence must be the main problem. As Hook said "we badly need a victory" and should one arrive in Scotland, Gatland still foresees the prospect of silverware. That is some statement seeing as his side have won only two matches from the last 14. The stats don't make any more enjoyable reading when they are confined to the Championship. The coach who won his first seven Six Nations games in charge has won only three of the next eight. "I don't think England will go through this competition unbeaten," said Gatland, with typical diplomacy. "So if we can win the next two games, that puts us back into contention for the Championship."Reuse content