Six Nations: World Cup woe against English fuels Max Evans for Calcutta Cup
IF THERE is truth in the adage that “good things come in small packages” Scotland could be on to a winner in their new selection of two of the RBS Six Nations Championship’s smallest wingers for Saturday’s Calcutta Cup match.
Certainly, the desire that burns inside Max Evans, who will line up with Selkirk debutant Lee Jones on the other flank, points to a determination that seems intent on forcing its way out of his 5ft 10in 13st frame and knocking back the 6ft and 15 stones of Chris Ashton.
Evans started against England in the crucial final pool match in the New Zealand World Cup in October, but was forced off the field injured at half-time and watched victory slip through Scotland’s fingers as Ashton scored a late try to send the Scots home early.
“My memory of that is just an immense feeling of a missed opportunity,” Evans said, his face dropping at the recollection. “I came off at half-time after getting a bad knock just before the whistle, so I was immensely upset that I didn’t get to play in the rest of the game.
“In terms of my performance I felt really strong and excited about the possibility of delivering a good result, and so felt the same as the rest of the players at the end over that missed opportunity.
“It was the same in the last Six Nations, where we had a good performance but not the result. It’s all very well having a good performance, but you remember the wins and that’s the focus.”
Evans is beginning to find his feet in French rugby after a move from Glasgow to Castres, but not everything has been left behind. He faces a court appearance later this month after being accused of assaulting a man in an Edinburgh bar. The trial has been delayed several times, once to allow him to return from the World Cup, but Evans insisted that it has not affected his outlook on the championship.
“Hopefully that will be resolved by the end of this month,” he said. “It’s not something that will interfere with the rugby at all. It’s not resolved yet, but I don’t feel it’s hanging over me.
“It’s something I can’t wait to put behind me, but I have just had to put it on the shelf. It’s not something I worry about. I’m very positive about my side of things and it’s something I will deal with when the time comes. It won’t interfere with the rugby at all. I wanted to get it sorted a long time ago but with the way things have worked out it has taken this long, but hopefully it will be sorted this month.”
He has enough to focus his mind on this week with Ashton looking to atone for his part in the off-field distractions that blighted England’s World Cup and called into question the professional attitudes of their players.
England coach Stuart Lancaster said last week that he had had a good long chat with the Northampton wing and provided a frank assessment of what he believed Ashton had to change. Scoring tries with his trademark swallow dives was not on the list, however. Evans is one of many on this side of the border hoping not to see the Ashton leaps and, while he knows he will have more say than most in stopping them, he insisted it would be a 15-man effort.
“A lot of the game might depend on one-on-one battles and putting in a better performance than your opposite man but, actually, it’s not often you actually come across your opposite man, especially on the wing, because we move about so much these days. Ashton usually scores his tries miles away from his wing position, for example. But my focus will be to have a better game than him and shut him down whenever I can. I’m sure he’ll have the same focus, too.”
Turning to his own goals, Evans continued: “I’m in the game to either create tries or score tries myself, and I feel I’m not playing my part in the team if we’re not doing that.
“I go into every game looking for ways to score. We’ve been scoring a lot of tries in training and had a good session against the A team, but it’s about what happens on the day.”
Evans did score in the Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham last year with a cute chip-and-chase, the only try in that game and one of only six Scotland scored in the tournament.
There is no mistaking Evans’ self-belief, the player born and bred in England revelling in disproving the theory that wings have to be built like outhouses to survive in the modern game.
And Evans believes his confidence is shared by his team-mates, who are driven by a desire to turn near-things into victories. “I wouldn’t say it [winning the Calcutta Cup] was ‘now or never’, but this is a great opportunity, not just because of how close we’ve come in recent games, but because England have a new coaching team, new players in the set-up, it’s the first game of the Six Nations and teams always seem to find their feet as the tournament goes on.
“So it is a huge opportunity and this is definitely a time when the Scotland team believe that they have to deliver.”
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