By Graham Thomas
Steff Evans is the joint leading tryscorer in European rugby this season, has 13 caps for Wales, and is still only 28 – but expects no calls from Warren Gatland.
The wing – whose finishing skills helped see off a star-studded Sharks team last week in arguably the best regional result of the season – reckons he won’t be required any more at Test level.
It’s a harsh self-judgement, but Evans insists: “That boat has probably sailed for me.
“There are younger players coming through now in Wales – some of them are great young players – so it may be too late for me now.
“But I’m happy here at the Scarlets and I’ll keep plugging away.”
Evans can add to his European try tally of five when the Scarlets host French club Brive on Friday night in a European Challenge Cup last 16 match that is live on S4C.
Only Leinster’s Ireland Grand Slam star Josh van der Flier can match that figure, playing in the Heineken Champions Cup, but Evans has also crossed for six further tries in the URC.
That half dozen included the touchdown against the Dragons in January that took the Llanelli home town boy past the 50 mark in the league in its various formations – making him the highest Welsh tryscorer in the history of the competition.
In all, he has scored 71 tries in 170 matches for the Scarlets – a strike rate that recently led head coach Dwayne Peel to draw comparisons with England’s record-breaking football captain, Harry Kane.
But since Evans was last capped against Ireland in August 2019, in the build-up to the last World Cup, he has not been called upon by Gatland or his predecessor, Wayne Pivac.
Wales’ loss has definitely been the Scarlets’ gain, though, as he showed with his two opportunist scores last weekend against a Sharks squad that included 10 Springboks.
Now, he will try and put that priceless ability to good effect at Parc y Scarlets once more as Peel’s in-form side bid to reach the quarter-finals.
“We were probably written off before that Sharks game, so it was nice to prove a few people wrong,” adds Evans.
“We are now desperate to carry that on and win this next game against Brive. Qualifying for the late knockout stages in Europe is where we want to be.
“The win over the Sharks was a great stepping stone. We have beaten the Sharks at home, we have beaten the Bulls, so the belief is there.
“We know we can win these games, even if sometimes it involves trying to work out a different way to win.”
That was certainly the case last week for the Scarlets, who were outgunned in the set-pieces and found the Sharks’ line-out drives hard to counter.
But in almost every other aspect, Evans and his teammates looked sharper – never more so than when he skillfully chased down a kick ahead to score his second crucial try.
Brive managed to squeeze into the last 16 after beating Cardiff 37-24 in round four, their only victory in the tournament.
They are also struggling badly in the Top 14, laying bottom of the current standings with just five victories from 21 matches.
In contrast, the Scarlets have won nine of their last 11 games in all competitions and are the form team in Wales.
They have not lost at home since they were beaten by Leinster back in October and Evans says: “We are playing well and I’ve got some really good players around me.
“I know that I can follow players like Vaea (Fifita) and Sam (Lousi) around all day and I will probably score tries.
“When you also have players like Johnny Williams coming back into the side then they are adding so much to our game and it’s a team who are really fighting for each other.
“To be honest, at the start of the season, we were probably not great to watch, so it’s nice to be able to give something back now to our supporters and we want to keep it going.”
S4C – Friday: 7.55pm: Rygbi Ewrop – Scarlets v Brive
Live coverage of the European Challenge Cup last 16 tie between the Scarlets and Brive from Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli.
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