Scarlets and 'Cub' get a flying start!

James 'Cub' Davies is already busily engaged at the start of another exciting season as a star flanker with The Scarlets and this week vied with winger Johnny McNichol for another 'man of the match’ award as The Scarlets smashed new South African recruits Southern Kings in the Pro14 league by 57-10 at Parc y Scarlets.

Indeed, his superb support play and innate ability to know when to commit himself to the breakdown (he topped the turnover poll) earned him high praise from no less an authority than Stuart Barnes, who waxed lyrical, especially in the second half, as 'Cub' set up a couple of vital tries.

So this week Bill Carne took the chance to chat to James about how things have gone recently, starting with the fantastic end to last season, his trip to watch brother Jonathan with the Lions, his disappointment at non-selection for Wales - and the challenges ahead in the 2017/18 campaign!

James, after all the exciting things that have happened to you in the past six months, how is the new season looking for you?

Fine thanks Bill, with pre-season training having gone really well, I feel in good shape, both physically and mentally, after a bit of a summer break.

It is an exciting time at Parc y Scarlets because although we lost a couple of key players the arrival of Welsh full back Leigh Halfpenny has been a huge boost.

As champions we know that we are there to be shot down but plan to play the same brand of rugby as last season, and we hope we can pack the crowds in because they really do lift us a lot when the going gets tough.

The arrival of the two South African teams will be interesting to say the least but with the likes of my brother Jonathan, Scott Williams, Hadleigh Parkes, Leigh, and an Australian centre called Paul Asquith in the back line we have a cutting edge. Asquith is a silky runner and can create chances for others, and reminds me a lot of Regan King.

Up front we have my old pal Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Aaron Shingler, Tadhg Beirne and skipper John Barclay - and coaches Wayne Pivac, Steve Jones Byron Hayward, Mark Taylor and the rest will also have a big influence.

How would you describe the end of your last campaign?

It was amazing because we had worked hard all season to develop the way we wanted to play and it finally clicked to the full  when we played the Ospreys away and won 40-17 to qualify for the semi-finals.

"I had an injured shoulder and couldn't play but there was a real buzz about the changing room and during the next few training sessions, despite the fact that our semi-final was away in Ireland against hot favourites Leinster.

"To be honest my playing was in doubt right up until we travelled to Dublin because my shoulder was giving me complications and I had to prove to the coaches that it could withstand heavy impact. It was still a bit on the sore side but I just had to grin and bear it - and boy was I glad that I did!

"One motivating moment came for us as we were being driven into the ground and could see notices up advertising tickets for sale for the final - and knew the short odds the local bookies were giving on a home win - and such things were just what we needed to round off our belief that we could upset the applecart!

"It was a hell of a physical match but we never took a backward step and even the loss of winger Steff Evans to a first-half red card didn’t alter our self-belief as we proved that underdogs can win!

That nicely set us up for the final, also in Ireland, against Munster, and we were really up for another tough tussle.

"We had already watched recordings of their games and I remember turning to my brother Jonathan and saying,

"We can do this if we play like we have been."

It was an interesting day that saw us having a police escort to the ground and a quiet build up to running out onto the pitch and hearing our amazing supporters more than matching the opposition.

We ran out to face that vocal local crowd but as planned we stopped Munster from playing their attacking game and deservedly won 46-22, which was amazing, especially since I managed to score the final try to put the icing on my particular cake!

The dressing room was bouncing afterwards, especially when we all sang 'Sospan Fach' and it seemed to bounce off the walls, and the bus back to the hotel was the loudest I've ever known after we had our official meal upstairs; it was like winning the Ormond Youth Cup with Whitland CC and going back to the club afterwards!

We eventually went out on the town after midnight and to be honest I couldn't say what time we got back but I had a little bit of a hangover next morning - and couldn't find my watch but thankfully it eventually turned up!"

After some great displays you were widely tipped to be picked for the Welsh squad to play Tonga in Auckland and Samoa (in Apia) – how did you feel to miss out of a 32-man squad which had 13 uncapped players?

I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t disappointed after our end of season success and the fact that I had been named in the ‘Dream Team’ for the Pro 12 season.

I knew it might be a brilliant chance what with Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty all away with the Lions, but it just wasn’t to be and I had to get on with it.

Lots of people came up with reasons why but I just can’t comment more than that - it just made me all the more determined to raise my tempo this year.

To be honest I have never played for The Scarlets with Welsh caps in mind because I just enjoy being part of the team and trying to make a strong contribution – it might sound clichéd but it’s true.

I can’t change the way I play or the way I am!

So you took a sort of rugby holiday by going out to New Zealand to watch the first test with the Lions – how did it go?

It was brilliant – what a country!

I only saw the first test, when we lost, but it was great to cheer big brother Jonathan alongside my mother and father, and later on I was dead chuffed when he was voted our ‘Player of the Series’ – what an achievement.

I stayed for a week with my old pal Michael Collins, now back home and playing with the Auckland Blues, and it was great to catch up on old times at Parc y Scarlets.

There was a real buzz amongst the huge number of Lions’ supporters and lots made a fuss of me – but the New Zealand fans didn’t even know who I was!

I also popped back to Whitland to play for the Presidents’ XI against the club’s first team but I’m not sure they were impressed by my batting skills as I went in at number four, was dropped straight away but was out for just one run – although I did make amends by taking three wickets!

As a silver medalist in the Rugby Sevens at the Rio Olympics is there any thought of a switch back to play for Wales in the forthcoming Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia?

Wouldn’t it be great because I would love the experience but it would pose problems for me because it is right in the middle of the 15-aside season and I can’t see The Scarlets letting me have the time off to not only go there but commit myself to the lengthy training beforehand.

I’ll never forget the trip to Rio because I was one of only a few non-English players in the squad and I think some of them found it hard to understand my St Clears accent until I learned to slow down a bit when I was talking to them.

There was a great team spirit amongst us though, and before you ask, Bill, my silver medal is still safely looked after by my mother in Laugharne!

So what does the future hold for James ‘Cub’ Davies?

At the moment I’m just happy to focus on the rugby season ahead because things can change so quickly and so there’s no point in making too many plans.

I think I am very lucky to play for a world-famous club with a brilliant management team and a great set of players.

We have fantastic supporters and I have lots of opportunities to travel – so I just want to carry on enjoying a great life with the support of an amazing family.

There have been a few ups and downs but overall I haven’t done badly for a boy from St Clears and there’s one thing for sure.

As you know Bill, I will never ever forget my roots!

  • Since this interview has come the unfortunate news that 'Cub' will miss 12 weeks of the season following shoulder surgery last Friday. Telegraph Sport wishes him a full recovery, and he would have been pleased to see The Scarlets notch a second Pro14 win by beating Zebre 41-10 on Saturday.