Cardiff Blues No 10 Jarrod Evans talks through his breakthrough moment, attacking instincts and kicking on
Get to know Wales fly-half Jarrod Evans
During Wales’ last autumn campaign, Warren Gatland recounted how Jarrod Evans had introduced himself to the squad: “He mentioned it was about time he was here considering he had been playing in front of Gareth (Anscombe) for the last two years.”
Gatland appreciated the show of confidence from the young fly-half, who insists it was all done in “good spirits”, and Evans duly won his first cap off the bench against Scotland. That is one of three career highlights he lists, the other obvious one being Cardiff Blues’ European Challenge Cup final triumph last year, particularly given its comeback nature. Yet it is the third that provides the best insight into Evans.
He rewinds to September 2017 and a Guinness Pro14 match in Connacht. He came off the bench late on, replacing Steve Shingler, and converted Willis Halaholo’s last-minute try to give the Blues a 17-15 victory. The kick came in front of less than 5,000 people – a far smaller crowd than his other two highlights – and could not be described as significant in terms of the Blues’ overall season, but it was hugely significant in terms of his own.
“That’s the moment I always look back to,” he says. “I went on my best run of games from there; it kick-started things. I got the opportunity to play and it helped me develop. I probably learnt the most that year – the longest period I’d played at a regional standard.”
Game time is key for any player, but particularly one responsible for leading a team’s attack; you learn to make decisions under pressure and adapt to different situations. Evans gained valuable experience as a teenager, playing for Pontypridd at 17 and making his Blues debut at 18, but it is over the past two seasons that he has flourished.
It’s the flair element that Evans brings to the Blues, the ability to make breaks and pose threats to opponents, that has so endeared him to supporters. As his regional coach John Mulvihill says, he “will roll the dice”, with conservatism not an option, and Evans clearly relishes the chance to take charge of the creative process.
“I like to play what’s in front of me and take control of the attacking side of the game, organising the boys around me and what we do.
“I enjoy playing with my mates at the Blues. There are about 12 of us who have come through the age groups, so we know each other’s games and the squad is quite settled. There’s a chemistry.”
Next season Wales wings Josh Adams and Hallam Amos will be added to the region’s chemical equation. With Owen Lane and Aled Summerhill in high-scoring form in this campaign, the Blues will have threats aplenty out wide.
“They’re pretty big names, especially on the international stage,” says Evans, who is a big fan of Manchester United and the NRL outside of rugby union.
“When you see some of the European squads you see the depth you need to win things. They’re both exciting players with ball in hand and it shows the club has real ambition and wants to get to the next level.”
Evans points to two people for helping him take his own game up a level: Matt Sherratt and Nicky Robinson. Sherratt, who swapped Blues for Ospreys in the summer of 2018, helped Evans with his game management while former Wales fly-half Robinson provided kicking advice.
“Technically he helped a lot. He changed one or two things with my technique and I’ve put a lot of work into that since. With Wales, Neil Jenkins has given me pointers too. Kicking is probably the thing I needed to improve on.”
While Evans has impressed many with his fleetness of foot and varied vision, he still has fewer than five minutes of Test experience. Yet with Anscombe’s ACL injury ruling him out of the World Cup, Evans is set to get a chance to prove his credentials for a place on the plane to Japan by coming off the bench against England in Wales’ second warm-up match this weekend.
This article originally appeared in the June 2019 edition of Rugby World magazine.
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