James Davies: Scarlets flanker reflects on ‘horrible’ decision to retire

James Davies played 11 internationals for Wales and was part of the Team GB sevens side that won Olympic silver in Rio in 2016
James Davies played 11 internationals for Wales and was part of the Team GB sevens squad that won Olympic silver in Rio in 2016

Scarlets and Wales flanker James Davies has highlighted his vulnerability before making the “horrible” decision to retire because of concussion.

Davies announced his decision almost 18 months after his final game for Wales against Georgia in November 2020.

The 31-year-old has outlined his initial symptoms.

“The first six months were pretty much a migraine for the whole time, my head just felt it was going to explode,” Davies told Scarlets TV.

Davies added: “I would come in because the specialist would say it’s important to keep busy and training.

“Initially I was doing 10-minute spins on the bike and I would have to get off because I was feeling dizzy and sick and my head would be throbbing.

“I would be driving home worried if I would get there because my head was all over the shop.

“I was getting neck pain, my visuals were off, I probably had all the concussion symptoms.

“It was hard just trying to build tolerance for going on the bike. Once you did that, it would be trying to build tolerance for running, then passing and catching.

“None of it was easy and I had to re-train myself to do it all which was probably the hardest part.

“In the end I probably got to a point where I was training with the boys in a capacity I was looking like I was getting excited, getting the point I was still making breaks, my skillset was still there and I felt good, which was class.”

Davies had that ray of light in his battle before that faded.

“Then it went onto contact which just wasn’t working,” Davies added.

“I got to a good place around November (2021) but managed to take a glancing blow in training.

“I went through all my symptoms again in the same cycle, just in a condensed period which is scary and showed my vulnerability.

“Little glancing blows to the head, I would get symptoms straightaway and I just felt vulnerable. Any kind of blow would give me a headache and in the end I just knew.

“This wasn’t going to work.

“I am so glad I did everything I could to make sure it’s the right decision because I could have quit so long ago. It will give me peace moving forward when I look back at the decision.”

Davies admits retiring was hard though.

“It’s horrible, it’s all I have known is playing rugby. It is my passion,” Davies said.

“To go through what I have been through, it was probably the only decision I could make. Having spoken to the specialists there was no choice.

“It was pretty much put on my shoulders that I could not carry on. If you gave me the choice it would be the same choice because the last 18 months has been tough and to think I could do it again is pretty unthinkable.

“To put my family and friends through it again, I don’t think I could do it to them or myself. It’s gut-wrenching but the right decision has been made.”

Davies is glad the news was in the open with the reaction including taking out the match ball before the home game against Dragons where he was applauded by the supporters at Parc and Scarlets.

“It’s been a long road and now the announcement has finally come out, it’s good to get it off my chest,” said Davies.

“It is probably about a month in time before the announcement was out there, so I was probably having to lie to the boys a bit which wasn’t great.

“When I told the boys it was tough. I was nervous and I am never really nervous. I had a few words I wanted to say, what rugby meant to me. It was a perfect send-off I could not have hoped for anything more.”

Davies has reflected on the support he has received.

“It has been a few weeks and the reaction has been humbling. A lot of players got in touch including people who have had to retire early which has been great.

“Specifically people with concussion which has been helpful and hopefully they can help me moving forward which is great.”

So what next for Davies?

“I have been a bit bored, I won’t lie but that’s probably my character,” said Davies.

“I will probably get used to that in the next month or so and will see what’s next.

“I like to try things and you only get one chance in this life.

“People might have this perception of me that I have these tattoos and I was drunk in Las Vegas.

“But I am smarter than people think and I have a business degree.

“I am excited about the next chapter, it’s nerve-wracking but one I am looking forward to.”

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