Get to know the Scarlets wing who has been a revelation this season
STEFF EVANS has had a breakthrough year at the Scarlets, finishing the regular season as the Guinness Pro12’s top try-scorer with 11, and his stellar form has seen him earn a call-up to the Wales squad for the summer Tests against Tonga and Samoa. Here the wing speaks to RW about teaching, his defence and James Davies… Like a lot of the boys down here, I’m a Welsh speaker. During the week we’ll only speak English in camp but during games, if we want to confuse opponents, a few of us will chat in Welsh.
I was a cheeky kid in school. My maxim was if you get close to the teachers, you’ll be alright. It seemed to work – I didn’t get in much trouble at Ysgol y Strade. I studied at Cardiff Met for a year to become a primary school teacher. I didn’t have my heart set on becoming a rugby player because I hadn’t been picked up by the academies and needed something to fall back on with good holidays!
In my first month with Llanelli I picked up a Player of the Month award. I thought, ‘I can’t be doing too badly, maybe I should give rugby a proper go’. It’s going well, touch wood…
You get the odd bit of criticism on social media after a game. I’ve decided to shrug it off. It’s the only way you can move forward, by not worrying.
I may not have played during the Six Nations but I took away only positives from my time in the Wales camp. You’re used to seeing people like Alun Wyn Jones on the TV, so to be around them, asking them questions, is a great learning environment. Coming face to face with George North was a shock. You don’t realise how big he is. His attitude to training is first class – you can see why he has such a reputation in the game. The fact he’s just 25 is crazy. The best player I’ve faced this season has to be Charles Piutau. He has great feet but he’s so strong. He can step you or run right through you, which not many back-three players can do. He’s mustard.
The Scarlets are one big family. We were chuffed to make the play-offs – it was a team effort after a poor start. We didn’t blame anyone; we put in the hard work and got the results. Credit must go to Wayne Pivac, Stephen Jones and Byron Hayward for turning it round.
We’re losing a bit of firepower. Everyone will miss Sanjay (Liam Williams), who’s been brilliant for us, and DTH van der Merwe as well. However, you have to push on. I’m starting to get a good understanding with Johnny McNicholl, who’s gone well at full-back lately. He’s a talented player. Cubby ( James Davies) is a character. But behind all the jokes, his rugby knowledge is second to none. He’s a brilliant player, with all the skills. He calls me his “protégé”. He’s a bit of an entrepreneur is Cubby, a bit like Del Boy.
To play Saracens and Toulon in the Champions Cup was a hell of an experience. We went to the Stade Mayol and I saw that bloke shouting “Pilou, Pilou”, before I faced Springbok legend Bryan Habana. It’s something I’ll never forget.
I’ve worked hard on my defence this season. Last season my missed tackle count was pretty high, so I worked hard with Byron on my extras. I’d perhaps concentrated too much on my footwork, but needed to knuckle down on my technique. Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams, who know a bit about defending, chipped in.
My next aim has to be pulling on the Wales shirt. I’ve had a taste of what it’s like to be in the Welsh camp, so fingers crossed I’ll get a chance to show what I can do this summer.
Everyone’s ambition is to play rugby in New Zealand. I’ve been to France and Italy, and went to South Africa with Wales U18, but I have never been to the other side of the world to play rugby. Going to Samoa and New Zealand (where Wales play Tonga) will be a brilliant experience for me. To see some of my stats from this season has been mad. To be sitting top alongside Piutau for line breaks is hard to believe. It’s good that some of my hard work has paid off.
The only way to push my game on is to maintain my consistency. No player is rated from just one season. It’s about proving it over a number of years. I’ll keep my head down and keep trying to get better.