‘One after the other.’ A short and simple statement that tells you all you need to know about Ian Evans’ desperately unlucky record with injuries. But ever since the Ospreys lock made his return from his most recent setback, he has proved any doubters wrong and he has proved how vital an asset he is to Steve Tandy and Warren Gatland.
Evans made his Ospreys debut in 2005 in a 37-10 defeat to Munster at Musgrave Park and he went on to feature in 20 of the region’s matches in the 2005/06 season.
The 6ft 8in second-rower’s performances earned him a call-up to the Wales squad and he made his international debut against Argentina in 2006, a game in which he ran in a try from over 50m to score his first and only points for Wales to date. Everything was looking bright for the now 27 year old forward but things soon changed with crushing consequences.
Unfortunately things did not go according to plan and Evans suffered a shoulder injury meaning he missed the majority of the 2006/07 season, but this was just the start of a torrid few years of injury problems for the Johannesburg born forward.
After returning from a prolonged spell on the side-lines, Evans was dealt another blow as he suffered a knee ligament injury in Wales’ 29-9 defeat to the All Blacks in 2008, an injury that kept the Osprey out for the remainder of the 2008/09 season.
The frustration continued for Evans and the forward was dealt yet another setback as he struggled with an ankle injury.
Evans finally made a return to the international stage in December 2011 after a three year absence, but he was unable to help Wales to a win as they were beaten 24-18 by World Cup bronze medal winners Australia at the Millennium Stadium in Shane Williams’ farewell match.
Evans’ impact on his return has been phenomenal after making a total of 19 appearances for the Ospreys this season, with another likely to come when the Ospreys face Munster in the Pro12 semi-final at the Liberty Stadium, in addition to his international cap against the Wallabies that he earned at the end of last year.
Even more impressively was the fact that he played in all five of Wales’ Six Nations matches, a feat that not even the most optimistic of rugby fans could have predicted a few years ago, as they went on to secure the Grand Slam for the third time in eight years.
This achievement is all the more impressive when you consider that Evans, prior to the World Cup in New Zealand, was behind Alun Wyn Jones, Bradley Davies and Luke Charteris in the second-row pecking order.
Evans has shown throughout the season that he is more than capable of stepping up to the plate when it comes to the big tests and that is why he is very likely to add to his 22 Wales caps in the near future starting with the Barbarians in June.
His strengths in the line-out will be vital to Wales as they continue their search for a regular number two. Matthew Rees’ injuries ensured that he would miss the World Cup in New Zealand and his replacement Huw Bennett performed admirably. But Evans’ Ospreys team-mate Bennett, who is due to leave for Top 14 side Lyon at the end of the season, also struggled with injuries at the beginning of the Six Nations tournament and he was replaced with Scarlets hooker Ken Owens.
The continuous change at number two failed to disrupt Wales’ Grand Slam hopes but this was largely down to the great work of the other forwards including Ian Evans who was rapidly becoming Wales’ unsung hero.
He is now all but certain to feature for Wales, under the watch of Rob Howley, in their tour of Australia this summer after a truly remarkable campaign at club and international level.