Lions star Davies aims to shake off summer rust

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Jonathan Davies has started six consecutive Test matches for the British and Irish Lions
Pro14: Ulster v Scarlets
Venue: Kingspan Stadium, Belfast Date: Friday, 15 September Kick-off: 17:35 BST
Coverage: Live BBC Two Wales, BBC NI and online and the BBC Sport app, highlights later online and Scrum V on BBC Two Wales on Sunday from 18:00 BST

Jonathan Davies returns to rugby this week reflecting on a spring and summer that were seasons to remember.

In April and May, Davies was a leading light as Scarlets turned on the style to win the Pro12, triumphing twice in Ireland against Irish provinces with an attacking brand of rugby which had purists purring.

In June and July saw he played every minute of all three Test matches as the British and Irish Lions held New Zealand to a 1-1 series draw.

His Lions team-mates voted him their player of the series, and Davies celebrated with a summer at home because he didn’t want to travel after a “long old tour”.

Jonathan Davies hands off New Zealand’s Anton Lienert-Brown in the 2017 Lions first Test defeat by New Zealand

Now, extended summer break over, the 29-year-old centre is ready to return as the champions face Ulster in Belfast on Friday in the first real test of their season after comfortable wins over Southern Kings and Zebre.

So how does Davies reflect on his achievements?

The Lions and Scarlets success

“It was eight weeks of a lot of fun with some great guys,” Davies says of his Lions experience.

“I just enjoyed my rugby and thankfully things went well for us as a group and personally things went well as well.

“Obviously that was nice. We would have taken a series win, but that’s in the past now.”

Davies previously played in all three Test matches for the Lions in Australia in 2013, when they beat the Wallabies 2-1.

But New Zealand is generally seen as a sterner test. And he puts some of his own success down to the way the Scarlets ended the domestic season.

Pro12 final highlights: Munster 22-46 Scarlets

“The way we played at the end of last season it was so much fun and I carried that enjoyment onto the Lions tour,” Davies added.

“The way Scarlets were playing, I was enjoying my rugby. You’d drive into training and there was always a good atmosphere.

“You have a laugh, none of the boys take themselves seriously, but when it’s time to work you work. Going to Dublin for the semis, not cramping up and worrying about no side having won an away semi-final or anything like that.

“We just went out and played our own game and I felt in a good place leaving for New Zealand.

“I was pretty relaxed about it all and just didn’t take myself seriously.”

Taking a break

Jonathan Davies runs out to win his first Wales cap, against Canada in May, 2009, aged 21

Davies and his Scarlets’ Lions team-mate Ken Owens – who also returns this week – were given no special treatment as they prepared for their delayed start to the new season.

Coach Wayne Pivac said both did stints in the second-string teams running out against the first team in training.

Davies confessed that on one occasion he didn’t even make that team.

“I had to go and do fitness on the side with the academy boys. It was a real comedown,” he said.

“The boys were trying to say it was my first time, but I told them ‘no, I have been around a lot longer than you boys. I did my time when I was younger’.

Jonathan Davies and fellow Whitland RFC product Mike Phillips celebrate the Lions’ 2013 success in Australia

“To be fair, the hard work those boys put in towards the back end of last year helped us to prepare to be ready for games.

“It is an important factor, we have a joke about it, but the way that helps the team is a massive thing and just shows it is a squad effort when we go into a game on the weekend.”

Expect a little rust

Davies, who may not start against Ulster, is keeping his own expectations in check as he prepares to come back.

“I have been away from rugby for a while, I took a rest, it is about getting up to speed again and pushing on even more,” he added.

“I am more than likely going to be rusty however much I play.

“For me it is about making sure I do the basics well, don’t try and force the issue and trust in the hard work I have done to eventually put me in a good place.”

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