St­eff Evans

Get to know the Scar­lets wing who has been a rev­e­la­tion this sea­son

Rugby World - - CONTENTS -

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.

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