Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies says he is enjoying his rugby again during a World Cup campaign that has seen him produce record-breaking form.
Davies’ early touchdown in the 40-6 rout of Australia set a new World Cup best of eight tries for a scrum-half.
And it represents an impressive return to international rugby after he missed out on Wales’ South Africa tour last year, the 2022 autumn Tests and Six Nations campaign two months later.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland’s predecessor Wayne Pivac preferred players like Tomos Williams, Kieran Hardy and Dane Blacker in the scrum-half position.
And although Gatland was in charge for last season’s Six Nations, Williams, Hardy and Rhys Webb fought for the number nine shirt.
Crucially, though, a door opened for the 33-year-old when Gatland named Davies in the World Cup training squad, and he has not looked back.
He starred in the tournament warm-up victory over England and regained the number nine shirt for key Pool C wins against Fiji and Australia
“I love World Cups,” Davies said. “I love the build-up to them.
“It is the only time that we really get a full pre-season (with Wales). It has been a tough couple of months, but I have enjoyed it.
“Physically and mentally, I feel like I am in the best shape of my life. I am really enjoying my rugby again.
“We are all back to where we want to be under this management. We are fighting for each other, playing for each other and the environment is good, which is the main thing.
“We are enjoying our time off the pitch as well. We’ve got a good bunch of boys, and it shows.”
Davies, who made his Wales debut nine years ago and was the team’s starting scrum-half during the 2015 and 2019 tournaments, is once again excelling under Gatland’s direction.
He scored five tries at the 2015 World Cup, then two more in Japan four years later – including an interception effort in a pool-stage win against Australia.
“Warren has got his way,” Davies added. “It works for me and it obviously works for everyone else in the squad. It gets us all going.
“The other coaches as well, Mike (Forshaw) with defence, Kingy (Alex King) in attack and Humphs (Jonathan Humphreys) with the forwards. We’ve had a lot of changes with coaches, and I think that’s made the difference, to be honest.”
Wales’ crushing success against Australia secured a quarter-final place – the fourth World Cup in a row for them to achieve that under Gatland – and has set up a potential last-eight appointment with Argentina in Marseille on October 14.
“I thought our win in 2019 against Australia in the World Cup was big, but this is right up there,” Davies said.
“Momentum is key, especially in World Cups. We had a good week’s training preparing for the game, and I thought it showed on the pitch.
“We obviously won’t look too far ahead of ourselves. We have got a few days off to recover, and then we will focus on Georgia the following weekend.
“We have still got a job to do against them first, and then we will start looking at the quarter-final draw.”