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Evans moves from shadows to spotlight

Sportal.co.nz     12 Sep 2007    

Saturday's game against Portugal may be one of the greater mismatches of the World Cup but for Evans, and several of his team-mates, it represents their chance to keep the pressure on those regarded as first-string players in the side.

Evans explained at the team's Marseille base that the philosophy running through the campaign was to be better than the side was last week.

After the fine opening against Italy that is a tall order, but Evans said it was a realistic goal for the overall good of the side.

"We have to concentrate on what we need to do. It gives guys like myself the chance to push for starting positions. You can't do things in a half-hearted way, we have got to set the bar even higher," he said.

Even in the magnitude of New Zealand's opening win there were aspects of the performance that need to be addressed against Portugal.

"We have a few things to work on," Evans said.

"In the first half, for the first 30 minutes as someone said you could put that on a tape and send it around the world to say that is how rugby should be player. But for the rest of the game things were a little bit off. The error rate crept up again.

"We have to play like they did for the first 20-30 minutes but for the whole game."

Playing in Carter's shadow has required a special approach by Evans, and that involves being ready to make the most of every little bit of rugby he can get.

"Obviously I want to be the No.1 starter but my philosophy is if I'm playing really well I am putting pressure on him and that is going to be good for the team," he said.

Evans added that he wouldn't be doing what he was if he didn't think he could be the best first five-eighths in the world.

"He's an amazing player, perhaps if I had been born 10 years later it would have been a different story."

Evans said that while he wanted to be No.1, if he couldn't be that then being No.2 wasn't a bad fallback position.

Being in Marseille has also confirmed the worth of a decision Evans was forced to make about whether his future was in rugby or Australian Rules.

Faced with several top players in the Blues franchise area from which he hails with Carlos Spencer king of the roost and other players emerging, there weren't too many prospects of a long rugby career.

But then Tony Brown left the Highlanders and that opened up a chance that Evans was able to take in Dunedin.

However, it had been a close-run thing to decide whether his future might be in Australia.

"I did the positive-negative chart thing, and talked about it with my family. But to be honest my heart was always in rugby," he said.