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'He had a lot of reasons not to come and he chose to come...'

By Liam Heagney

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If things had turned out differently, Aled Davies could be preparing to face the All Blacks this Saturday with Wales instead of getting ready with Saracens for their Premiership derby at London rivals Harlequins the following day. The 29-year-old scrum-half earned 20 Test caps from 2017 through to 2019 and was part of his country’s World Cup campaign in Japan. 

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However, the then Ospreys player soon took a gutsy decision. Overlooked by ex-Scarlets boss Wayne Pivac, who had taken over at Wales from Warren Gatland, Davies, who had left Scarlets for Ospreys on Pivac’s watch, felt his career needed a change. So rather than continue to play in the PRO14, he agreed to switch to Saracens despite knowing his Test career would be over and that his first full season at the London club would comprise Championship rugby. 

Arriving in on a three-year deal, he also knew he had big shoes to fill as Ben Spencer, England’s 2019 World Cup final reserve scrum-half, was leaving after nine years while Richard Wigglesworth was also soon to depart following a decade-long service at Saracens. 

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Davies has since gone on to make the No9 jersey his own, fitting in seamlessly as Saracens galloped to the Championship title last June and he has continued that form through to this season’s Premiership campaign, starting all five matches so far even though he now has competition for the spot following the arrival of Ivan van Zyl, the six-cap former Springboks scrum-half. 

Saracens boss Mark McCall is delighted that the No9 position hasn’t developed into the positional headache it could have been with so much experience walking out the exit door at the club with the departures of Spencer and Wigglesworth to Bath and Leicester respectively within months of each other. 

“We are over the moon with Aled progress,” enthused McCall when asked by RugbyPass for a progress report on the Welshman. “It was a big step for him to leave Wales. He had been capped early in his career but had fallen down the pecking order and he just wanted to challenge himself and get something new and something different. Despite the fact that we were relegated he came and that says a lot and we are very grateful that he did. He has benefited from getting loads and loads of game time in the Championship, playing 80 minutes every week after Richard and Ben left and that has been enormous for him.

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“In the last five or six games he played with Owen (Farrell) and that partnership is developing really well. He is a great player, loads of strengths and very few weaknesses. His passing is incredible, the accuracy of his passing, the length of his passing, the speed to get to breakdowns, his box kicking is very strong, defensively he is good, he breaks so he is the kind of scrum-half you want.

“He had a lot of reasons not to come and he chose to come because he felt that getting something fresh was going to be good for him and I hope that he doesn’t regret coming here. I don’t think he does. 

“Ivan we are very excited about as well. He is only 26 but he feels like he has been here for a while, a really mature guy, a really mature player, good skill set. We are very excited about having two new, good scrum-halves having had so many good scrum-halves over the last ten years. They have (big shoes to fill) but I think they can and they are.”

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'He had a lot of reasons not to come and he chose to come...'

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