RYAN Davis is determined to shake off his reputation as Basingstoke’s super-sub and make the number seven shirt his own.
Flanker Davis is in his second season at Down Grange, having followed director of rugby James Croker to the club – but he has already established himself as a first-team regular.
However, the dynamic 24-year-old has often had to settle for a place on the replacements’ bench as Basingstoke are spoilt for choice when it comes to back row options, with Davis one of several players vying for a starting spot.
Davis has benefited from the new replacement rules, which came in at the start of the season and allow teams to make up to eight rolling substitutions over the course of the match. The change has resulted in replacements getting more time on the field and has given Davis more opportunities to show what he can do.
He said: “It is always disappointing if you are not starting but the coaches really manage the competition in the back row well with the new replacement rules. Even if you are on the bench, you know you will be involved and could get up to 60 minutes out there, rather than just coming on at the end.
“I was on the bench a lot at the start of the season but I knew I had a part to play. I knew I could come in, make an impact and possibly change the game.
“I would prefer to start though and one of the things I am looking to do this year is become more consistent. That is what has let me down in the past. I would have one or two good games followed by a couple of shockers, but I think I have been more consistent this season.”
That consistency is giving Croker a selection headache every week, forcing him to make a tough choice between Davis and fellow openside flanker Matt Horne.
The two players may be competing for the same shirt but they offer different things. Davis is a more exciting player with the ball but Horne is outstanding defensively, an area where Davis admits he is still improving.
Davis said: “There are times when guys do not know where I am going to go because I am not a straight line runner. I cannot dish out the big hits like Matt Horne but I offer something different with the ball.
“Competition for places is very strong and nobody can ever rest thinking the shirt is theirs but I am happy with the way I am playing. I have put on weight, which has helped in the contact area, and shored up my defence, because that is where I was lacking a bit.”
Davis spent his childhood in Wiltshire before meeting Croker when both played for Dorset side Oakmeadians. The pair joined forces again last season, when Croker found out the flanker was living in Woking, and Davis has now moved to Basingstoke, partly due to his association with the club.
“I am absolutely loving it here,” Davis added. “I have played for three clubs in my adult life and this is the most professional. “Everyone’s attitude is top drawer, the coaches are great and the fans are brilliant as well. The whole package is fantastic.”
On the field, everything is going well, with Basingstoke flying high in the London One South table and aiming for promotion at the end of the season.
“It’s going really well at the moment,” Davis added. “We had a couple of blips early on but we have responded well and are playing some really good rugby.
“We are on the right track and it’s really close at the top of the table. We are looking forward to playing Chichester in January and if they start slipping up, we are right there to pounce.
“It is up to us now – there are no excuses. We have got to win the rest of our games and we will go up, it is as simple as that.”