Wales and Scarlets flanker James Davies forced to quit over head injury fears

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Wales and Scarlets flanker James Davies has revealed he had no choice other than to confirm his retirement from rugby with immediate effect to avoid another ‘unthinkable’ concussion setback.

Davies, 31, hasn’t played since winning his 11th Test cap in Wales’ Autumn Nations Cup clash with Georgia in 2020 due to ongoing head injury problems.

‘I’ve enjoyed every minute of my career at the Scarlets and made some amazing friends along the way, but after speaking to specialists it’s pretty clear I can’t go on playing rugby,’ Davies said.

Wales and Scarlets flanker James Davies has retired from rugby with immediate effect

Wales and Scarlets flanker James Davies has retired from rugby with immediate effect

‘At the moment, thankfully, I am able to lead a normal life, something I wasn’t able to do for a long time after the knock I had.

‘Any bang to the head in training or in a game and I could go back to the start of all this, which is unthinkable for me.

‘It has been a tough couple of years, but the support I have had from my family, friends, team-mates, coaches and the club has been incredible and I am hugely grateful for that.’

Davies – the younger brother of experienced Wales and British & Irish Lions centre Jonathan – is one of rugby’s most enigmatic characters.

His departure from the game is a cruel blow to the player and his Welsh side Scarlets.

The 31-year-old forward hasn’t played since 2020 due to ongoing head injury problems

The 31-year-old forward hasn’t played since 2020 due to ongoing head injury problems

Davies made his Scarlets debut in an LV=Cup game against the Dragons in 2013.

He has since made 101 appearances for the Welsh region, establishing himself as one of the leading opensides in the then PRO12 and PRO14 and what is now the United Rugby Championship.

A tenacious jackaling presence at the breakdown, he also possessed handling skills honed on the World Series sevens circuit and won a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Davies helped Wales’ 15-a-side team to finish fourth at the 2019 World Cup in Japan, memorably featuring alongside Jonathan against Fiji.

Famously, James Davies told then Wales head coach Warren Gatland he had finally ‘seen the light’ by selecting him – a comment not many would dare to make.

At domestic level, Davies – known as ‘Cubby Boi’ – delivered a superb try-scoring display in the Scarlets’ PRO12 title-winning triumph over Munster in Dublin in 2017 and a week earlier in the same city, picked up one of numerous man-of-the-match awards after slotting in on the wing to help the Scarlets become the first side to win an away semi-final in the competition.

Davies is the younger brother of Wales and British & Irish Lions centre Jonathan (above)

Davies is the younger brother of Wales and British & Irish Lions centre Jonathan (above)

‘I have some amazing memories in a Scarlets shirt,’ Davies said. ‘Obviously there were those two weekends in Dublin and La Rochelle at home when I also had to play on the wing! Toulon at home in Europe, Bath away, beating Munster at Thomond Park that year – they all stand out.

‘But I will remember the boys and the stuff off the field just as much. There are team-mates, some who have come and gone from the Scarlets, who I consider lifelong friends.

‘I will miss all that banter, although I’m not sure the boys will!

‘I’d like to also thank the fans for all their support throughout my time. Hearing them chant my name motivated me every day to get myself back on that pitch to play.’

Davies won his first Wales cap against Italy in 2018 and delivered successive man-of-the-match performances on the tour of Argentina that year.

He went on to be selected in Wales’ World Cup squad for Japan in 2019.

A former Wales Sevens captain, the Bancyfelin product featured at the Commonwealth Games and was part of the Team GB squad that won silver at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac hailed Davies as 'one of the game's genuine characters'

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac hailed Davies as ‘one of the game’s genuine characters’

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac said: ‘It’s very sad to hear about Cubby’s retirement.

‘I was fortunate enough to coach him at club and international level and not only is he a good player, but he’s a great person. His enthusiasm and sense of humour are second to none and he is one of the game’s genuine characters. I wish him all the best for whatever comes next.

‘I know that whatever he turns his hand to he will make a success.’

Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel said: ‘Cubby has been a great Scarlet, a phenomenal player who gave everything for the shirt and was a huge character around the group.

‘Even when not playing, he has been enthusiastic and fantastic around the squad. He loves the club and everything about the place and just wants to help the side improve.

‘We have all seen how hard he has worked to try and get back on the field. It has been tough for him because you know how much he has missed playing, but a person’s health always has to come first. 

‘I’m sure Cub will continue to have a big impact on rugby. The game needs his knowledge and foresight. We all wish him well with what comes next.’

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