Peter Corrigan: Swing low, below the belt

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The Independent Online

Jonathan Davies was deservedly fêted at a tribute dinner held at London's Grosvenor House Hotel on Wednesday to mark the 20th anniversary of his Welsh international debut, but he managed to avoid a fate that would have made it difficult for him ever to return home to Wales.

Jonathan Davies was deservedly fêted at a tribute dinner held at London's Grosvenor House Hotel on Wednesday to mark the 20th anniversary of his Welsh international debut, but he managed to avoid a fate that would have made it difficult for him ever to return home to Wales.

Around 750 diners, including a strong contingent of his Independent on Sunday colleagues, gathered to see video flashes of his greatest tries in rugby union and league while the platform creaked under the weight of sporting dignitaries such as Martin Johnson, Ian Botham, Sir Steven Redgrave, Sean Fitzpatrick, Scott Gibbs and Martin Offiah.

John Inverdale was the master of ceremonies, and while he was holding a charity auction of sporting memorabilia, someone, an uppity Englishman I presume, bid £1,500 to hear Jonathan sing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot".

Jonathan gulped. The audience was packed with relatives and countrymen who had travelled up for the event, and who would not have taken kindly to hearing his rendition of English rugby's battle-song. Who won the Grand Slam, anyhow?

Thankfully, a Welsh voice bellowed an offer of £1,600 for him not to sing it. The bidding went on until the English bidder dropped out at £2,200, so Jonathan was saved the indignity.

He went on to sing "Delilah" at the after-dinner karaoke, following which it was agreed that the successful bidder must have been a music lover as well as a Welshman. Jonathan confessed afterwards that he did sing the Chariot song at a dinner held a month or so after England won the World Cup, but only because someone bid £15,000 for him to it.

"It was for charity, what could I do?" he said. "Thankfully, there weren't many Welshmen there. But there are plenty here tonight, so I was very grateful to the winning bidder."

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