Whatever Welsh public opinion may feel, Jonathan Davies has been making it clear that he is reluctant to be considered the saviour of Welsh rugby and may therefore have breathed a sigh of relief at his omission from the Wales Five Nations squad named yesterday. Selection to play England at Twickenham on Saturday week will follow next Tuesday.
Kevin Bowring, the Wales coach, had been expected to come up with a 32- strong party but once he had restricted it to 24 there was no place for Davies, whether at outside-half or centre. Instead Neil Jenkins was included along with the new outside-half, Arwel Thomas, doubts over Jenkins's fitness providing Davies's one possible way back in.
As Davies, 32, has been taken aback by the perception of him as some sort of messiah since his return from rugby league, he may well be hoping Jenkins comes through. But the broken collar-bone which permitted Thomas's debut in last week's Italian match is still not healed and, having already withdrawn from Pontypridd's visit to Swansea last night, he is also doubtful for his club's fixture against New South Wales on Saturday.
In the meantime Jenkins will be examined when the squad get together on Thursday, and if necessary will be given leave from the training weekend in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, to face NSW. "If Neil isn't fit we'll bring someone else into the squad," Bowring said. That someone may or may not be Davies, since there is an impressive younger alternative available in the 19-year- old Lee Jarvis, who has been playing for Pontypridd in Jenkins's absence.
Davies's drawback, quite apart from being starved of the ball by his Cardiff colleagues, is a too-obvious lack of rugby: just half-a-dozen games for Cardiff and not all of them at stand-off, where Wales would would prefer him to play, since he forsook Warrington and came home. "We looked at a large number of players and Jonathan was certainly one of them," Bowring said.
"We'd like to see him play more, and we know he'd like to play more at fly-half. We picked on current, rather than past, form and although we know he is a world-class player he still needs more time to adjust."
Bowring has recalled as many as possible of the injured absentees from the fraught victory over Italy, meaning Gareth Thomas and more importantly Nigel Davies could return to the centre, though having given a new midfield triangle a first chance against Italy, it would be perverse to discard them already, even against England. On the other hand, had Bowring seen Arwel Thomas play for Bristol against NSW on Monday, Jonathan Davies's restoration would surely have been complete already.
WALES SQUAD (Five Nations' Championship): Full-back: J Thomas (Llanelli); Wings: S Hill (Cardiff), I Evans, W Proctor (Llanelli); Centres: N Davies (Llanelli), L Davies (Neath), G Thomas (Bridgend), M Wintle (Llanelli); Outside-halves: N Jenkins (Pontypridd), A Thomas (Bristol); Scrum-halves: R Howley (Bridgend), A Moore (Cardiff); Props: J Davies (Neath), A Lewis, L Mustoe (Cardiff); Hookers: J Humphreys (Cardiff, capt), G Jenkins (Swansea); Locks: D Jones (Cardiff), Gareth Llewellyn (Neath), M Voyle (Newport); Back row: E Lewis (Cardiff), G Jones (Llanelli), H Taylor (Cardiff), S Williams (Neath).Reuse content