Jonathan Davies

Jonathan Davies, not only a gifted rugby player, but a successful broadcaster Picture credit: BBC

JONATHAN DAVIES OBE is a former rugby player who played in the 1980s and 1990s, representing Wales in both union and league codes during a 15-year playing career. A goal-kicking back, Davies was regarded as one of the most gifted players of his generation. He played his club rugby in Wales, England and Australia.

He went on to become a television commentator for both codes and media personality, in both the Welsh and English languages.

Davies was born in Trimsaran, Carmarthenshire, on October 24, 1962, the son of Diana and Len Davies, who worked in Trostre, Llanelli. Davies started school at Trimsaran Primary, where he was part of the Welsh medium class. His teacher, Meirion Davies, introduced him to rugby, and he started playing seven-a-side.

Although not having the strongest physique for the contact sport at that time, his talent and flair for the game was recognised by many, including local great Carwyn James.

Davies attended Gwendraeth Grammar School, where he met his first wife Karen Hopkins, whom he married 10 years later.

In 1974, Davies played for the very first time at Cardiff Arms Park, when he was chosen for the West Wales Under-12s. He started his career at amateur level with Trimsaran RFC. His father Len had also played for and captained Trimsaran Rugby Club. At the age of 17, Davies left school and became an apprentice painter and decorator.

After initially being rejected by Llanelli, Davies joined Neath as a fly-half in 1982, soon catching the eye of the national selectors. After only 35 games for Neath, he made his Wales debut in the 24-15 victory over England in the 1985 Five Nations Championship – scoring a try and slotting a drop goal on his way to the Man of the Match honour.

Following a switch to Llanelli in 1988, he went on to play a key role in Wales Triple Crown success the same year before captaining his country on the ill-fated tour of New Zealand that summer. The two Tests were lost by 50-point margins, although Davies did score a 90-metre try in the second.

A shock Wales defeat at home to Romania was quickly followed by him switching codes and joining league side Widnes for a record £230,000 in December 1988. He later admitted fear of being dropped and financial uncertainty were the catalysts for the decision.

Davies commenced his professional career during the 1989–90 Rugby Football League season, playing as a centre for Widnes in their 1989 World Club Challenge victory against the visiting Canberra Raiders. During the 1990–91 season Davies played left-centre and scored four conversions in Widnes’s 24-18 victory over Salford in the 1990 Lancashire Cup Final at Central Park, Wigan, on September 29, 1990.

Davies played stand-off, and scored a try, three conversions, and a drop goal in Widnes’s 24-0 victory over Leeds in the 1991–92 Regal Trophy Final.

After Widnes got into financial difficulties, in 1993 he transferred to their local rivals Warrington. He was named player of the 1993–94 season, winning the RFL’s Man of Steel Award.

His spell in the professional 13-man code also saw him play for southern hemisphere sides Canterbury (100 points in 14 games) and North Queensland. Davies became a dual-code international with appearances for both Great Britain and Wales.

Davies captained Great Britain in the 30-12 win over France on February 16, 1992, in Perpignan.

He scored a solo try in Great Britain’s last victory over the Kangaroos at the old Wembley in 1994 where he sprinted 50 metres to touch down in the corner. Although he left the field with a dislocated shoulder during the second half, his efforts in both attack and defence – which included two try-saving tackles – saw him named as man of the match. However, the shoulder injury would keep him out of the rest of The Ashes series, eventually won 2-1 by Australia.

Davies’s last rugby league match was as captain of Wales against England in the 1995 World Cup semi-final at Old Trafford, which Wales lost 25–10. Playing as a stand-off, Davies kicked three goals for Wales, taking his total tally for Wales to 21 points.

After the birth of daughter Geena in 1995, Davies’s wife Karen was diagnosed with cancer. In need of family support, and as rugby union had turned professional, Davies went back to south Wales and signed to play for Cardiff RFC.

In 1996, Davies was awarded an MBE and went with his family to Buckingham Palace to collect his award. The following year, his wife Karen died.

Davies went on win another five Wales caps, the last against England in the 1997 Five Nations.

After retiring from rugby, Davies, widely known as ‘Jiffy’, worked in the media as a commentator and pundit in both codes, mainly for the BBC in both the English and Welsh languages.

Since 2004, he has hosted his own rugby-themed chat show, Jonathan, on S4C, usually before Welsh international matches.

S4C’s Jonathan show: Jonathan ‘Jiffy’ Davies, Nigel Owens, broadcaster Guto Harri, Sarra Elgan and namesake Jon ‘Fox’ Davies

Davies is a supporter of the Wooden Spoon charity. In 2015, he was awarded the OBE for services to people with cancer through his role as president of Cardiff’s Velindre Cancer Centre, raising the Centre’s profile and more than £10 million in fundraising.