Ospreys: Ian Evans out to make up for dismal sending-off
IAN Evans could not have been less happy on his last visit to Italy had he spilled Pinot Grigio over a new suit, slipped in a puddle of olive oil and crashed a Vespa into a fountain.
Playing for the Ospreys against Treviso on the opening night of the season, the 6ft 8in Wales second row found himself sent off after receiving two yellow cards within the opening 32 minutes. Compounding his woe, the Pro12 champions went on to fall to a shock 12-6 setback at the hands of the unfancied hosts — the region's first ever defeat against Italian opposition.
Now Evans gets an early chance to redeem himself when the Ospreys head for Parma to take on Zebre tomorrow evening.
The stellar line-out jumper, who has found form in recent weeks, said: "It will be a nice chance to make amends for what happened in Treviso. My red card out there put the boys under needless pressure and left them a man short for close on 50 minutes.
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"It was not the start to the season we wanted and it was very disappointing on a personal level.
"The yellow card was quite harsh — hence why there was no ban after the sending-off.
"But it's in the past now. Hopefully we can go to Parma, concentrate on winning the game and then push on and show we can finish teams off."
Evans is moving up the gears at the right time, with Europe beckoning and also Wales's autumn series of matches against Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.
The former Neath and Pontypridd player's form was so good last season that he played in every minute of every game of Wales's Grand Slam campaign, the only one of Warren Gatland's squad to do so.
It wasn't just his top-notch line-out work that impressed in that campaign, with his athleticism and telescopic reach, but also his remarkable work around the field, the lock putting in 39 tackles in the five games and making 45 carries.
He lost his Wales place in the summer, arriving late in Australia after his wedding and forced to play catch-up, but he isn't obsessing about the job of getting back in favour.
Celebrating his 28th birthday today, he said: "Wales selection is out of my hands. All I can do is keep playing well for the Ospreys.
"I'm confident in my ability. I've had people doubting me in the past, but I stood up for Wales against Australia last year, I played in the Grand Slam games — so I've actually got something on my CV that shows I can play international rugby.
"But my first goal is to produce for the Ospreys."
Evans's prospects for Wales and the Lions next summer could be helped by his playing alongside Alun Wyn Jones, the pair forming one of the hardest-working lock partnerships in European rugby.
"I've played alongside Alun Wyn since we were in the Wales Under-21 side," said Evans.
"Each of us knows how the other one plays, we have a good understanding and we play well together. Hopefully, that will add another string to the bow — fingers crossed.
"On the Lions front, there's a lot of rugby to be played, so it doesn't make sense to think too much about it now. I don't really want to look that far ahead. We'll see how it unfolds.
"Being part of the Wales set-up, you learn that Warren Gatland chooses his teams on form. It's all about being part of the set-up for the Six Nations and then taking whatever chances you get because that's when the Lions selectors will be looking closely at people.
"If you're in form, everything flows from that. But it's a hell of a long way away."
Meanwhile, Zebre name flying wings Giovanbattista Venditti and Sinoti Sinoti for the visit of the Ospreys. The pair troubled the region while playing for Aironi last season.
Zebre: D. Halangahu; G. Venditti, M. Pratichetti, G. Garcia (capt), S. Sinoti; A. Chiesa; M. Aguero, D. Giazzon, L. Redolfini, Q. Geldenhuys, M. V. Vuren, E. Caffini, A. V. Schalkwyk, M. Bergamasco. Reps: C. Festuccia, S. Perugini, F. Tripodi, F. Ferrarini, J. Sole, L. Martinelli, A. Benettin, L. Sarto.