Ruthless Davies determined to extend try-scoring record
Six of the 13 tries Gareth Davies has scored for Wales have come in his seven World Cup matches. Now he has his eye on scoring twice against Fiji today to make it an average of one per game.
“It’s all right isn’t it,” the scrumhalf, whose latest try was his crucial interception score against Australia in Tokyo, said after being informed of his record. “I will have to try and get two this week.”
Four years ago Davies was the back-up thrust into the spotlight on the eve of the World Cup following Rhys Webb’s catastrophic foot injury in Wales’ final warm-up game.
Now he is fundamental to their success in Japan, as was clear for anyone to see against the Wallabies. Davies spotted Will Genia’s slow delivery from the base of each ruck to release a pass and pounced, intercepting once to score and almost hauling in another.
“With Shaun Edwards we do a lot of work on our general line speed and the whole team brings a lot of that,” Davies said. “If I find myself in the right place at the right time, I like to think I’m pretty quick and I get off the line pretty fast.”
Those darting runs out of the defensive line come at a risk of leaving space behind for the opposition to exploit, but Davies has earned the trust of the Wales coaching staff to pick and choose when to go for those interceptions on his own. “We give him a free licence defensively and he is outstanding in timing and coming off the line and putting those players under pressure from a third defender role,” said Wales head coach Warren Gatland.
“We have been pleased with him but we also have two other quality nines who can do a job as well.”
Davies, however, is very much the senior man at scrum-half, with 46 Test caps compared to a combined total of 30 for his rivals for the No9 shirt, Tomos Williams and Aled Davies.
The scrum-half opted to have “a quiet summer”, in his words, ahead of Wales’s intense training camps overseas, to ensure he would be in excellent shape for the World Cup.
“I didn’t do what I normally do, so there were no trips to Las Vegas or anything like that,” Davies said. “I knew the camps we had were in Switzerland and Turkey, I knew they were going to be tough. It was a really tough couple of months but we are all feeling good and fit and [ready to] keep that going.”
Wales still require two victories to ensure top spot in Pool D and Fiji pose a significant threat. Wings Semi Radradra and Josua Tuisova can make even the best defences look foolish.
“Some of the individuals [Fiji] have got are outstanding,” Davies said. “The defence will have to be switched on and we will have to keep an eye on them.” Just as Fiji will have to keep an eye on Davies, as he chases more tries on the biggest stage of all.