He has a great new job and a new sleek look. For Phil Davies, this is largely a new beginning in rugby life that has lasted more than four decades.
The former Wales national team and well-traveled coach has now been World Rugby’s director for about three months after taking over from former Irish boss Joe Schmidt. Not to mention, he is simply the most powerful Welsh man in the sport.
He is also in the best shape he has been in years, losing about five stones in eight months, more later. You can read about Davies’ busy rugby journey here. First, how was his significant new work born? He started the year as director of rugby at Leeds Tykes, after returning to the club in 1996, where he began his coaching career. But then everything changed when his phone rang out of nowhere.
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“I called these head hunters and asked if I would be interested in the job, and I thought, ‘Right, well, that’s interesting.’ I had a few conversations with people at the top of the world of rugby and I’m here, “he says.
“In a way, I feel a little humble.” It’s a big role and very challenging, but it’s just an amazing opportunity. I’m only three months old and I’m getting my feet under the table. I’m building more relationships right now than anything else. “
It’s a role that is truly the culmination of a rugby life, with Davies playing 350 games for his beloved Llanelli over a ten-year test career and winning 46 Wales matches in the back row and in the back. Then came coaching spells in Leeds, Scarlets, Cardiff RFC, Wales U20s, Worcester, Cardiff Blues, RGC and Namibia, before his return to Yorkshire.
“I’ve had some fantastic times and times that weren’t so successful in some people’s minds. But these experiences ultimately shape you, “he says.
“I enjoyed training at Premiership in England, at regional level in Wales and internationally. I also attended the Welsh premiere and National 1 in England. The experience I had and the ups and downs I had from time to time prepared me for the role I have as a great privilege. It’s a huge challenge, but I love it. “
So what exactly does the job entail? “I’m really involved in the four pillars,” he explains.
“One of them is the design of the game, the global lawsuits and how the game can improve and be relevant in today’s society. Another is to support developing countries and create increasingly competitive world cups. There is also negotiations with all elite referees and a process of analyzing the performance of referees. The fourth is the development of the game, which involved brilliant people like Jason Lewis and Greg Woods, two Welsh.
“It’s a broad and diverse role in many ways. It’s all about how you can get involved in the game, from training and education to high performance. The point is to get a chance to actually talk to people around the world.
“It’s great to be involved with some great people, to sit with people like Joe Schmidt, Dave Rennie, Steve Hansen and Six Nations coaches and talk about rugby. I have the opportunity to talk to people like Nigel Owens and Wayne Barnes about making decisions. It’s just amazing to be able to talk to such polished individuals in the game. It’s a really exciting role.
“It’s amazing to see the work that people around the world are doing to expand the game. The amount of work spent on player well-being, mental health and concussion is incredible. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all perfect, but World Rugby’s intention to expand the global game is truly amazing. To be honest, I was abducted. “
It’s a job where Davies spends time between his home in West Wales and the World Rugby base in Ireland, while doing a lot of trotting around the world.
“I’m all over the store at the moment!” He adds. “I have just returned from a week of workshops in Australia, looking at the next World Cup and how we can support developing countries like Fiji and Tonga, how we can put in additional coaching, fitness and physio resources, if any. they need. Next time I’m going to London for meetings of the referees’ coaches and then we’re in Dublin for a week.
“It was a really exciting and busy time. It’s just fantastic, the whole thing. So far, it’s been great to get involved. I am very aware of the responsibility and hard work done by many people around the world.
So what do you think are the biggest challenges the sport is currently facing?
“One of them is to make sure the game continues,” he explains. We must continue to work to make the game as safe as possible for all concerned. It is a contact sport, there is a certain element of risk, of course, but we try to mitigate that risk as much as possible.
“So he tries to develop the game and at the same time make it as safe and fun as possible. This can lead to a little change in the laws. We have seen recent lawsuits. The 50:22 ratio was really popular and there is a huge effort to make scrum as safe as possible. These are the key things. It’s not as easy as it may sound.
“Rugby has a lot of challenges because there are so many other different sports that people can do. So we need to protect the game and keep it relevant and keep it moving forward. We all have the responsibility, the media, the players, the coaches, the administrators, everyone involved in the game. There are a lot of challenges, but the intention is to keep the game growing and make it as safe and attractive as possible. “
As mentioned earlier, 58-year-old Davies also has a new look that is related to his new job. Explains the background.
“In June last year, I wanted to have my crooked finger straightened, so I had a preoperative examination,” he says. “They canceled the operation because they found an irregular heartbeat, atrial fibrillation, as they call it.
“I thought I had to do something about it, so I said goodbye.” I changed my diet quite a bit and I haven’t drunk much in the last 12 months or so. I just got a little healthy.
“To be fair, I lost a few pounds.” At one point I had up to 22 and a half stones. I’m about 17 and a half now. It took me about eight months. I did a lot of work. I’m just trying to take care of myself. I’ll be 60 next year, I can’t believe it. “
Davies has to consider the whole world when it comes to rugby, but he obviously still has a huge connection to the game in Wales, so how does he view the current state of affairs?
“Of course, there are a lot of reports about the way forward,” he says. “I would say that there are a lot of passionate people in and around rugby in Wales and I know that people are trying to find a way forward. . Let us hope that the regions can grow and that the path will continue to develop.
“I thought Nigel Walker spoke exceptionally well at ScrumV last Sunday.” He’s a good man who is now in charge of this side of the game and it’s about everyone getting behind the game and trying to keep it growing. “
And finally, as he settles in his big new role, how does a man from the Seven Sisters think about what rugby has given him since he first put on Llanelli’s shoes as a teenager in 1982?
“I listened to someone talk about the World Cup recently,” he says. “The hair on my neck was getting up because there were people in the room who played at the first World Cup in 1987 and I was one of them. It’s amazing to think how far the game has come since then.
“Thanks to rugby, I met some amazing people and what has given me and my family over the years has been truly incredible. I played almost 400 matches for Llanelli and was captain of the club for six years. I feel wonderfully privileged and proud to have been able to play as one of the best coaches that Welsh rugby has ever produced in Gareth Jenkins. What he has achieved in Llanelli when you look at his statistics is truly incredible.
“What the game gave me as a player was amazing. I always tried to give something back, so I enjoyed coaching. I have been training everywhere since 1996. I loved it. The journey was wide and varied and what I gained on it was immeasurable. It was great.
“I’m a passionate rugby man.” I am proud of my contribution and I am still trying to contribute. I’m slowly but surely settling in, and so far it’s amazing. “