Dragons back row stalwart Lewis Evans made his first appearance of the season in Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup encounter against Wasps at Rodney Parade, writes Gavin Barrett.
The Men of Gwent went down 24-8 in what was a fantastic effort under the difficult circumstances, after being forced to make eight changes to the matchday 23 before kick-off.
Dragons most capped appearance maker Evans was one of the players to come into the side.
And the 33-year-old admits it was great to be back out on the field with the boys, despite the circumstances of his unexpected inclusion, culminating in a first full 80 minutes since October 2019.
“I think that’s the main thing, I’m happy to be back involved,” he smiled.
“It’s been a very frustrating season for me personally, but it’s been great to see the boys, especially the last two weeks, really kick on and get those two away wins.
“You always need to be ready for it. It’s been a frustrating one having these soft tissue injuries and boys have then come in, it’s the strength of the squad at the moment.”
Evans continued: “When someone is not available, there are plenty of boys there to take the position and kick on.
“The back row has always been a strength, we have got a few injuries now, so time to bring in the old guard and it was lovely to have the call up and great to take the opportunity whilst I could.”
Dragons travel to France this weekend to take on Bordeaux Begles in round two of this year’s elite European competition.
And Evans believes Dragons were unlucky to lose against Wasps and they will have learnt their lessons as they look forward to the game in France.
“Wasps brought a fully loaded team down here and after 70 minutes there was only four points in it,” he said.
“It’s been ten years since we were last in this competition so it’s great for all the boys to be back involved and some youngsters came on and did really well.
“We were playing really well for 70 minutes, probably missed a few opportunities to really kick on and push away, but Wasps are a good team and it’s a testament to them really.”
“One or two decisions didn’t go our way and unfortunately a good team like Wasps will take their chances. It was a lesson learned for us, but we look forward to Bordeaux next week.”
Evans was involved the last time Dragons travelled to Bordeaux and, now he has the shirt, he plans on keeping a hold of it with a string of good performances beginning at the Stade Chaban-Delmas.
The back-row forward admits Dragons have done their homework and will be expecting a French team of big forwards and flamboyant backs.
“That’s the plan now (keeping a hold of the jersey),” he said. “We have a tough couple of weeks coming ahead, so we need to do our homework, make sure everything is as good as possible so we can be prepared for it and then go out and perform.
“I went to Bordeaux few years back, I think it might have been in the Challenge Cup,” he recalled.
“We had a brief look at them and we know they’ve done well in their French league, they have a big pack and a typical flamboyant backline, so a standard French team really.
“Going over to Bordeaux, it’s not quite the same without the crowd in the stands which creates a hell of an atmosphere, but it certainly will be a big challenge for us.”