9:06am Wednesday 28th May 2014
By Chris Kirwan
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons flanker Lewis Evans has jetted back to Wales for a golden opportunity to earn a place on a plane to South Africa.
The 26-year-old had to Split from a holiday to Croatia after a late call-up to the Probables' bench for Friday's clash against the Possibles in the trial match at the Liberty Stadium.
He trained at the Vale of Glamorgan headquarters for the first time yesterday and will now attempt to cap a superb season by making the 31-man squad that will take on the Springboks.
The competition for places is stiff but his ability to play across the back row could work in his favour – along with a lengthy list of absentees.
Wales are already without opensides Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric because of shoulder injuries, blindside Dan Lydiate faces a fitness battle to make the first Test because of a hamstring strain, blindside/number eight Ryan Jones will not tour because of club commitments with Bristol and lock Bradley Davies, who had been tipped to slot in at six, is set to miss out after straining a hamstring last week.
Evans was unfortunate to miss out on the initial selection after a terrific campaign in which he started every game in the RaboDirect Pro12 and missed just one frontline fixture.
Argus readers voted him as their Dragon of the Year because of his tireless exploits and now he can attempt to catch the eye of Wales boss Warren Gatland.
"We have been impressed with Lewis and this is an opportunity for him after playing particularly well for the Dragons this season," said Rob Howley, who will be Evans' coach on Friday night. "He can cover across the back row, which gives you a little bit of flexibility.
"Losing both Sam and Justin gives those players that are vying for that position a chance - but that goes across the board, this is an important game and it is the start of a World Cup journey.
"In 2011 four or five fresh faces turned up and changed the dynamic of the whole group. Friday is a great opportunity for all 46 players."
Dragons star Taulupe Faletau is the only back row player that is inked into Gatland's squad for South Africa.
He is joined by Scarlets pair Josh Turnbull and Aaron Shingler in the Probables' back row with Cardiff Blues openside Josh Navidi next to Evans on the bench.
The Possibles field Dragons captain Andrew Coombs at blindside and he is joined in the 23 by fellow back rowers Ellis Jenkins, Dan Baker, Macauley Cook and James Davies.
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