Gareth Davies knows he's in a battle for Wales scrum-half berth

Cardiff (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies knows he is in a battle for the No. 9 shirt even though he has won the vote for Saturday's Six Nations clash against Italy.

Wayne Pivac's tournament leaders are looking for a victory in Rome that would leave them just one win away from a Grand Slam.

Davies is in the run-on side after Scarlets team-mate Kieran Hardy, a try-scorer in the Triple Crown-clinching win over England, was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Davies' fellow 2019 World Cup scrum-half, Tomos Williams, is still recovering from a hamstring problem that has sidelined him since the opening weekend of the tournament.

Cardiff's Lloyd Williams is also vying for the shirt, with 2017 British and Irish Lions player Rhys Webb not even in the current squad.

"Kieran was outstanding last week against England and was unfortunate to pick up that little hamstring injury," Davies said on Thursday.

"I feel like there is a bit of pressure on me to perform as well as he did."

The scrum-half, who has won 60 caps for Wales, said he had faced competition for the jersey throughout his career.

"I have always said that's healthy as a player," he added. "It is only a good thing for the squad to have so much competition. It keeps us all on our toes."

Davies will be up against a Wales-born scrum-half this weekend in Italy's Stephen Varney.

Now playing his club rugby for English Premiership side Gloucester, fledgling international Varney is Italy-qualified through his mother.

"It's quite strange, but it is good for him," said Davies.

"He has come through really well and he is a good player. I've watched him play a few times for Gloucester and played against him a little bit in the autumn internationals as well.

"We know what his strengths are, so we will have to keep an eye on him. I am looking forward to the competition."

Italy have not won a Six Nations match since 2015 and Wales will be firm favourites to win ahead of a Six Nations finale against title rivals France in Paris next week.

But Davies said the side chosen by Wales coach Pivac was proof that the Azzurri were not being taken for granted.

"The team Wayne has picked for this week shows them (Italy) a lot of respect," he said. "It won't be an easy challenge. I am sure it will be a tough game for us, but hopefully one we can come out on top of."