Delighted to have an interview with Gareth Davies. Growing up was a player I loved watching him from the terraces with his spiraling touch finding kicks and how he glided across a rugby pitch. A fantastic rugby player.
Gareth has been heavily involved with the administrative side of rugby at many levels for a number of years and he was delighted just to talk about the playing side of the game in this interview.
1/ How did you get started in rugby and did you have a player you wanted to be as a child?
Answer - I grew up in Tumble - a strong rugby village at the heart of West Wales rugby. Played most of my early days for Gwendraeth Grammar School, but loved playing for Tumble Youth, both strong teams. In school conscious of my predecessors, Carwyn James and Barry John. My sporting hero was Garry Sobers, and in rugby, Barry John and David Watkins.
2/ You started your career with Llanelli under the tutelage of the great Carwyn James before joining Cardiff. How did you find him as a coach, and how did the move of Cardiff come about?
Answer - I played for Llanelli whilst at school. Carwyn coached up periodically at Gwendraeth and was the Llanelli coach in early/mid-Seventies. He was a thinking man's coach, full of analysis but focused on doing the simple things correctly.
I started University in Cardiff when I was 18, hence the move to Cardiff. When I was invited to come and train playing outside a certain Gareth Edwards - not bad for 18!! Carwyn had informed me that I should go and play University rugby and then at Christmas and Easter I would share games with Phil Bennett and Bernard Thomas - and would also play full-back - so I would realise where when playing 10, the full-back did not like the ball being kicked!!
The move to Cardiff gave me an early platform, and I was in the Cardiff side that beat the Wallabies in 1975 - scoring the winning try!
3/ You played in some great Cardiff sides in your 12-year career with the club winning the Welsh Cup six times. Was there one year out of all those better than the rest?
Answer - We had a great side in the eighties, from 1980-86. We were all mates, and we enjoyed each other's company and respected our abilities as players - a recipe for success!
I can't single out any years really - maybe 1984 when we again beat Australia - and beat their test team practically, that won the grand slam in the UK and Ireland that year.
4/ You made your debut for Wales in 1978. What are your memories of your debut?
Answer - I consider that I had two debuts. First tests in Brisbane and Sydney which was, of course, fantastic. Especially as a cricketer. The Sydney test was played on the Sydney Cricket Ground - and the walk through the long room to the pitch is still fresh in the mind.
I then played against New Zealand - the Haden and Oliver dives in Cardiff in the November- so my first cap again!!!! Huge disappointment with the ridiculous Quittenton penalty for the dives at the death- the biggest disappointment of my career
5/ In 1980 you toured South Africa with the British and Irish Lions playing in one of the tests before getting injured. How do you look back on that tour to South Africa?
Answer - Great pride in proving myself as the Test Number 10, but then being injured in the second test, the knee again!! Very proud but bedeviled by injury.
6/ You played 21 times for Wales, captaining Wales several times. Your final international was in 1985. How do you look back on your international career?
Answer - With some degree of frustration and disappointment. I don't think I fully realised my potential - not helped by snapping my PCL- posterior cruciate ligament when I was just 21. I managed to play for another 8/9 years but never had the pace of pre-injury. It also hampered my training. My knee proved problematic and was the reason I came home from 1980 Lions tour and why I was not fit for the 1983 tour to New Zealand.
7/ Your great friend and half-back partner Terry Holmes went to rugby league in 1985. Did you ever receive any offers to join League and if so were you tempted?
Answer - No, never- and I would never have been tempted.
8/ What was your favourite ground to play at?
Answer - Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa.
9/ Who was the best coach you worked with?
Answer - John Dawes. Again, a deep thinking coach similar to Carwyn James.
10/ Who was the best player you played with and why?
Answer - Gerald Davies has to be a strong candidate. He could beat a man like no other, with that rasping sidestep, when he would accelerate, whilst most other mortals would lose speed.
11/ Best player you played against and why?
Answer - Terry Holmes. Played for Carmarthenshire vs Glamorgan County! He was brilliant and won the game single-handedly- and I saw him do that on many other occasions - with me on the same side thankfully!!
12/ Is there one game, in particular, you played in that sticks out in the memory?
Answer - A couple maybe - I think the Cardiff v Australia match in 1984 when we beat them well, and they went on to win all four tests. Also, Wales v France in Cardiff 1980 - we beat a strong French team well, and it could have been much more.
Wales v New Zealand 1978 - FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS.
13/ You represented Cardiff for 12 fantastic years, did you ever receive offers to go elsewhere and were you tempted?
Answer - I was lobbied quite strongly to stay at Llanelli when 18, but moving to Cardiff was the best decision!!
Whilst at Oxford University, I was chased by London Welsh with the offer of a spot with one of the significant four accountancy practices in London, but just had won my first cap so thought best to play in Wales. After that, I was seen as very much a Cardiff player, and I certainly had no ambitions to play for anyone else.
14/ Do you regret that your career was during the amateur years and not being professional and being able to concentrate fully on your rugby career as a player?
Answer - Yes and no - the thought of having the time to train and develop skills properly, speed and strength is countered by the boredom of putting a tracksuit on every day and just talking to the same people about the same things!!!
15/ Finally, can you name your greatest 15 by position that you played with through your career, please.
Gareth Davies XV
15/ Serge Blanco
14/ Gerald Davies
13/ Danie Gerber
12/ Frank Bunce
11/ Stu Wilson
10/ Phil Bennett
9/ Gareth Edwards/Terry Holmes (Cannot split them)
1/ Fran Cotton
2/ Bobby Windsor
3/ Graham Price
4/ Gary Whetton
5/ Robert Norster
6/ Jeff Squire
8/ John Scott
7/ Jean Pierre Rives
Thanks so much to Gareth for his time, and reigniting so many memories. Merry Christmas to him and all of our visitors to our website