LEWIS Evans is relishing one of the biggest games of his career tonight as Newport Gwent Dragons look to draw inspiration from Connacht’s stunning victory in Toulouse on Sunday, writes Iwan Gabe Davies.
The Gwent region could make history tonight and become only the second Dragons side to win in France should they beat Bordeaux-Bègles away tonight.
They are certainly in with a decent shout of doing so which would keep their hopes of reaching the last eight of the Amlin Challenge Cup well and truly alive.
Last week they racked up a bonus point in a 40-24 demolition job at Rodney Parade over the same opponents.
That was achieved with a certain attacking élan although they were under the cosh in the scrum and from driving lineouts.
With the Top 14 side all but out of the tournament as a result, and with a tough league match away at Toulouse looming next week, the Dragons also have their opponents’ woeful recent Amlin Challenge Cup record going in their favour.
Bordeaux-Bègles have lost a staggering ten out of their last 11 games in this tournament, only picking up a victory over Italian minnows Rugby Mogliano in between, suggesting, less than subtly, that their hearts aren’t really in this competition.
Blindside flanker Evans was excellent in last week’s win, standing out as did his brilliant fellow back row partners Nic Cudd and Toby Faletau and has shaken off a calf injury to feature this evening.
“The plan is to follow up our excellent win last week and we know exactly what to expect from a top Top 14 side,” the 26-year-old said.
“Bordeaux-Bègles’ scrum and driving lineout will be good and we have been working hard at dealing with that during the week.”
Evans underlined how important it was to break their away duck with a remarkable 23-8 victory at RaboDirect PRO12 high flyers Glasgow last month – their first on the road since overcoming Zebre in Parma in the league back in February.
“We had a shock result at Glasgow and we’ll be looking for the same sort of game plan in France – to disrupt them at source and play our own game.”
Evans has played in three Dragons defeats in France and will be looking to taste that first triumph and was encouraged by fellow PRO12 outfit Connacht’s astonishing 16-14 Heineken Cup victory over record four-time winners Toulouse Stade Ernest Wallon a few days ago.
“I’ve played away against Perpignan, Toulouse and Bayonne away and these encounters in France are my favourite games to play in,” he said.
“It was great Connacht winning in Toulouse on Sunday and I remember Glasgow surprising them there a few years ago as well.
“This will be a new challenge for many of us with the atmosphere, the police escort to the ground and the banter from the fans and the crowd getting on the referee’s back.
“I’ve been struggling with a calf injury but I was determined to make this game.”