James Davies reveals the horror of what happened to him in first interview since being forced to quit

James Davies has spoken in depth for the first time about the ‘horrible’ time he went through with concussion before quitting rugby and admits: “It was scary, really showed my vulnerability.”

The Wales openside and Scarlets fans’ favorite called time on his career after issues that have plagued him since November 2020 when he played his last game.

That came in the back-row for Wales against Georgia in Llanelli, Davies explaining he had no option but to withdraw because of concerns over his well being.

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Davies says he gave absolutely everything he could to make a comeback, but in the end he had to grudgingly admit defeat. However, putting so much effort into a possible return, and then finding he just could not do it, has enabled him to come to terms with his decision.

The rugby world has since rallied around, Davies revealing he has received best wishes and help from a raft of ex-players and current stars.

“Obviously it’s gut wrenching, but I think the right decision has been made,” he said in an interview with the Scarlets’ YouTube channel.

Davies gave a stark account of what had happened in the build-up to the decision to announce his retirement at the beginning of the month.

“The first six months were pretty much just a migraine the whole time,” he began. “I’d come in because the specialists would say it was important to keep busy, keep training. But initially I was doing just 10 minute spins on a bike and I’d have to get off because I was feeling dizzy, unwell, my head would be throbbing.

James Davies at the end Wales' game against Georgia in 2020
James Davies at the end of his last game of rugby, playing for Wales against Georgia in the 2020 autumn internationals

“I’d be driving home just worried if I’m going to get home because my head was over the shop. I was getting neck pain, my visuals were off, the symptoms you can have through concussion. I probably had the lot.

“I was just trying to build tolerance for going on a bike, once you did that build tolerance for running, then once you did that I was trying to build tolerance just for passing and catching. It wasn’t as if any of it was easy, I had to retrain myself to do it.

“In the end I got to a place where I was training in a capacity which was looking like I was getting excited, still making breaks, felt good. My skill set was still there, but then it went on to contact which just wasn’t Walk throughs, little glancing blows to the head, I’d get symptoms straight away and I just felt really vulnerable.

“In the end I just knew this isn’t going to work. Those first six months they were just constant. My head just felt like it was going to explode sometimes.

“I got to a good place around November, but it took a little glancing blow in training. I went through the same symptoms again, the same cycle, but in a condensed period. It was scary really, it showed my vulnerability again.

“But I’m so glad I did everything I could, went through it. I could have quit ages ago, but went to nth degree to make sure the decision is the right decision.

“That will help me moving forward, I will be able to look back at the decision and say ‘Yes, you gave it everything, unfortunately you just couldn’t do it’. But at least I know.”

Davies, 31, had an excellent career, winning 11 caps for Wales and shining brightly for the Scarlets who helped win the PRO12 title in 2017. He 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, he featured at the Commonwealth Games and was part of the Team GB squad that won silver at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

It is little wonder, then, that so many have contacted Davies to offer their condolences, but also congratulate him on his career.

The first players he told were his former team-mates, ahead of a Welsh derby clash with Cardiff.

“I’d like to think that’s why they put in a good performance,” he smiles. “It was tough, I was nervous, had a few words I wanted to say. They brought up a couple of off the field stories, those said what rugby meant to me. The staff then showed a video of me playing. It was perfect , I couldn’t have hoped for any more.

Then the messages of support began to roll in.

“It’s been humbling to be honest,” he goes on. “Lots of players I played with got in touch and gave their commiserations. They brought up stories of the past which were good to remember. Present players obviously said their goodbyes.

Jonathan Davies and James Davies talk to media at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

“Also people who’ve been through similar have reached out. They too had to retire early, specifically with concussion, and have been really helpful. I hope they can help me moving forward.”

He admits of having to quit: “It’s horrible, the only thing I’ve known is playing rugby. It’s my passion,. But having gone through what I’ve been through, it’s the only decision I could make, having spoken to the specialists.There was no choice really.

“The last 18 months have been tough. To think I could do it again is pretty unthinkable, put those close to me through that again. I don’t think I could do it.”

Davies says he can ‘only look back with fondness’ as to how his career went.

As for the next step, he says: “I’ve been a bit bored, that’s my character. But I will probably get used to it maybe in next month or so and see what’s next.”


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