Jonathan Davies remains calm but admits the pressure is on him to deliver
O’Driscoll as effusive as anyone about Davies’s performance in the win over the Waratahs
Jonathan Davies during yesterday’s press conference in Sydney.
And so the world moved on? Not really. The seismic reverberations following Warren Gatland’s huge call to omit Brian O’Driscoll from the third Test and thereby have a crack at his Holy Grail of a first Lions series win continued hereabouts yesterday. Anybody who was anybody and put in front of the media, be they Wallabies or fellow Lions, was asked about it, and it wasn’t just the Irish, or indeed British, leading the charge.
The home camp were clearly amazed as well as pleasantly surprised by the decision, even if they weren’t inclined to betray as much, and while the Lions were understandably keener to move on, they had a funny, or perhaps deliberate way of doing it. Yesterday, they presented the man with the number 13 jersey, Jonathan Davies, to the assembled media throng, followed by the outside centre chosen above O’Driscoll on the bench, Manu Tuilagi.
One hardly recognised Davies’s boyish features without his trademark head gear. Comparatively less effusive as the more experienced O’Driscoll perhaps in front of the cameras et al, but for all that he cut an impressively composed figure. Clearly, a very sound temperament is part of his make-up.
Having faced a barrage of questions about the man he has been picked ahead of, it was put to him that perhaps this was a little unfair. Davies noted wryly: “When I saw I was down for media today, I did expect a few questions! I think that shows how great a player Brian is. I didn’t really expect anything different. I have got to make sure I prepare myself for a Test match, and that is what I will be doing and concentrating on.” Nicely, and diplomatically, done.
Davies is nicknamed Fox, or Foxey, because his parents ran the Fox and Hounds pub in Bancyfelin, near Carmarthen, which Welsh rugby folk now believe, more than ever, is indeed God’s own country! Another of Gatland’s big Welsh favourites, Davies has played more minutes than any other Lion on this tour, and there have been unnerving signs that he did indeed peak in that Waratahs game that eternity of three Saturdays ago.
“It’s been a long season but the magnitude and importance of the game just drives you on. It was a good thing that we had a couple of days off and the boys are refreshed. Everyone’s attitude and energy in training has been fantastic. All the boys are ready to go.”
O’Driscoll had been as effusive as anyone about Davies’s performance in that win over the Waratahs. Admittedly, Davies was truly sensational in that match, and even allowing for Leigh Halfpenny scoring 30 points, could have been a deserving recipient of the Man of the Match award, making 16 carries for a gain of 141 metres, and three clean line breaks as well as three try-scoring assists, not to mention scoring one of the Lions’ five tries.
So good was Davies that the first thing O’Driscoll said to Gatland in the away dressingroom was: “Man, how good was Jonathan Davies.”
“Things went my way that night,” said Davies, with an impressive mixture of maturity and modesty. “I’ve just got to make sure I put myself in those positions again by working hard and making sure that I deliver under pressure. That’s one of the things I’ve worked on over the last few years. It is slowly coming together. On the whole I’m reasonably pleased with my form but I want to keep pushing on. There is a huge amount of pressure to deliver.”
However, on top of losing Paul O’Connell and Sam Warburton in turn, in sacrificing the Lions’ third tour captain in this group has inevitably led to a fear that there will be a void in leadership, but Davies maintained: “All the boys involved have played in big games in their career.
“Some of the boys are quieter than others. Toby (Faletau) hardly says boo to a goose,” said Halfpenny, which would certainly have been the impression from Faletau’s brief audience the day before.
“But he’s played in a World Cup semi-final and Grand Slam games. He’s got experience to drive through. I think we have got plenty of leaders.”