Staying fit is a vital element in a professional sporting career. It allows time to repeatedly work on skills, as well as building conditioning and confidence for the many phases seasons and individual games throw at you. Lose a lengthy period, especially at a young age, and it can take time to regain that lost ground as Gloucester number eight Gareth Evans knows only too well.
For him a critical date was April 12th 2014. Gloucester were playing Bath at Kingsholm and the game was virtually at half time. What happened next checked Evans’ career for six months.
“I was out wide with Matt Garvey in front of me” he explained. “I tried to go on his outside. Where I was trying to stay in play all the weight was through my right leg as he tackled me into touch. I felt a tweak, the referee blew up and I hobbled into the dressing room. I was bit sore and so did various tests, the last one of which was hopping on one leg. It hurt but I didn’t feel it was that bad. Dr Bob Stewart looked at me and said he didn’t want to risk me going out again, so I stayed in the physio room with ice on my knee and by the end of the game it had blown up, so it was just as well I didn’t continue.”
Evans played mini’s rugby at Wotton Bassett with England international and Gloucester team mate Jonny May, even though there are two school years between them. It was Evans who played in the higher age groups, and as his ability became more apparent, the miles started clocking up on his parents’ car.
“Because there isn’t much rugby in the Swindon area, my parents would take me training in tandem to Bath and to the Dragons” he said. “Any sessions for Wales schoolboys were two hours each way. When I reached 16 some of the lads at Bath said they had told the coach at Hartpury about me and I had to go there. The rest is history.”
Evans speaks warmly about his parents. It’s poignant, as his mother passed away earlier this year. Now in the last season of his current contract, Gareth knows it is an important time as he tries maintain his USP in the Gloucester squad.
“It’s a big year because the more I can play and perform, the more bargaining chips I have” Evans went on. “If you compare Ben Morgan and I, he’s more than a stone heavier, and in those close quarter carries he is going to have an advantage. He is seriously strong, and a power athlete, so purely in terms of physics he has the edge but with that comes a limit on how often you can repeat skills. I would like to think I’m a bit more agile and with more pace, so my selling point has to be using that agility over a longer period. I have to offer an alternative while ticking all the boxes that someone in my position must do when playing in the Premiership.”
As the Premiership takes a break until the end of the month, Evans has managed less than 40 minutes first team action so far this season. Now 25, he knows that with Ben Morgan in the England squad for the autumn internationals as injury cover, the chance may soon open up for him to make those contract negotiations just that little bit easier.