SCOTLAND will seek to inject a fresh creativity in their attack against Tonga tomorrow when Max Evans returns to the side at outside centre and he is ready for the challenge.
Andy Robinson, the Scotland head coach, hinted this week that he and assistants Scott Johnson and Matt Taylor had looked at the possibility of bringing Stuart Hogg forward into the centre, a position he played with distinction at his club Hawick. They decided instead, however, that he would be better developing in a dangerous back three with Sean Lamont and Tim Visser, and that this final EMC Autumn Test would provide an opportunity to have another look at Evans’ ability to improve on Nick de Luca’s threat.
Having come off the bench against the All Blacks and then been dropped from the squad altogether last week, Evans is keen to make a mark and rekindle a successful association with Aberdeen.
“My first touch [in Test rugby against Canada in 2008] was to set up a try so I’ve got good memories of the place,” he said. “I came off the bench here when we scraped a win against Samoa two years ago as well, so happy memories. I felt I was lucky and I was really pleased to be involved in the New Zealand game as I had only had a couple of games this season for Castres because I had been suffering with a rib injury. But then I was disappointed with myself as I didn’t make the impact I would have liked off the bench.
“It was frustrating watching last weekend. It was the first time I have been fully fit to play for Scotland and not been playing, and the amount of possession we had is something I’m always asking for when I am actually on the field and it’s not always there. I would have loved to have been out there, seeing what I could have done with that kind of pressure. But I’ve been given this opportunity this week in a position I favour and I’m very excited and can’t wait.”
Evans has always been a laid-back character and he knows there is pressure on the team to perform and win. He will be crucial to Scotland’s ability to break the Tongans’ defence.
He added: “Andy knows that I not only like to create space for myself, but I also like to create it for others so I’m sure he’s hoping I get my hands on the ball with a few moves with me getting involved more than others. It’s great to have the backing of the coach and the coaching team to do that. It’s massively exciting.
“Everyone talks about how much the Pacific Island teams put in the big hits, but to be honest most hits in international rugby, from any team, are pretty hard so it’s not going to make too much difference. The fact is that they commit a lot more to putting in the hits which can create opportunities for players.
“I maybe want to run a little move in phase play or have a little step and be evasive. That’s something I definitely want to bring into play in this game.
“There have been a couple of moves I have thrown in there [this week] which I like to do, things I do when I play 13 in France, and that’s been received well. I don’t want to talk too much about what they involve, though.”