Nick Evans interview: Harlequins' record points-scorer determined to deliver parting gift

 
Ross McLean
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An Evening with Nick Evans and Sean Fitzpatrick
Evans is Harlequins' all-time leading points scorer (Source: Getty)

Retirement presents may be imminent, but former New Zealand and soon-to-be ex-Harlequins fly-half Nick Evans has a parting gift of his own that he is intent on delivering.

Friday nights clash with leaders Wasps is Evans’s final Premiership match at The Stoop and a vital showdown if his side are finish in the top six and qualify for the European Champions Cup.

The south-west London outfit are currently seventh, one point adrift of Northampton, who Quins face in the final game of the season at Franklin’s Gardens next week.

Evans, the club’s record points scorer, will call time on his playing career at the end of the campaign, but is hell-bent on ensuring his current employers mix with the continent’s elite in his absence.

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“I want to leave the club in the Champions Cup spots, it’s where I think we belong,” Evans told City A.M.

“That hits the nail on the head. We’re desperate to get there and we’re working really hard to fix the inconsistencies we’ve had this year.

“It’s in our hands. We need to win both games and we understand that. There's seventh spot for a play-off [against the eighth or ninth-ranked PRO12 club, before a final] but nobody really wants two extra games. We want to do it ourselves.

“The Wasps game is huge. We’ve got nothing to lose. People might look at it and there be a sense that we’re not going to win, but that’s probably when we play our best.”

Evans, now 36, arrived at The Stoop in 2008 and has since amassed more than 2200 points in over 200 appearances, 20 of which came at Twickenham in 2012 as Quins sealed their maiden Premiership title.

There are plenty of other moments to reminisce about: his dramatic last-gasp drop goal against Stade Francais in 2008, a winning conversion in the Amlin Challenge Cup final three years later, and his status as the most prolific overseas Premiership import. Evans has promised himself a moment of reflection this evening.

Harlequins v Leicester Tigers - Aviva Premiership Final
Evans and Harlequins won the Premiership title in 2012 (Source: Getty)

“I’m probably not the most emotional guy but Friday will be very, very emotional,” said Evans.

“I’ve got my parents flying over and it will be great for them to see my last couple of games. My dad came for the [Premiership] final but my mum has not been over before to watch me.

“It will definitely be emotional but we’ve got a job to do. I’ve got to knuckle down and worry about getting the job done first and foremost.

“At the end of the game I can sit back, have a beer and reflect a little bit. I’ll sit in the changing rooms for the last time with all the boys and know I’ve had a fantastic time out there with my mates.

“This club has been a huge part of my life and I don’t actually think of the lads as team-mates anymore, they’re family.”

The Auckland-born No10, who notched 103 points during a 16-cap international career for New Zealand following a debut against England in 2004, remains comfortable with his decision to retire.

Alongside his playing duties, Evans is also head coach of Wimbledon RFC, who face a National 2 South promotion play-off against Dings Crusaders on Saturday. Coaching would appear to be his future.

“Time waits for no man, things move on and you have to move on. It comes to everyone at some stage,” added Evans.

“One of the last things I wanted to get to was 200 games. Once I got there I started thinking about retirement and once you start thinking about it you’re halfway there.

“If I could continue showing the quality I demand of myself I would have kept going but I just felt I wasn’t having the impact I wanted. It’s been nice to do it on my own terms.

“Coaching is something I really enjoy and something I want to get into. Whether that is at Quins or somewhere else we’ll have to see, but I want to give back to the game.”

Impending retirement provides Evans with the opportunity to sit back and watch team-mates and domestic rivals take on his fellow countrymen and world champions New Zealand during this summer’s British and Irish Lions tour.

“The Lions forwards are big and powerful and that’s an area where [head coach] Warren Gatland is going to have a real go at New Zealand,” added Evans. “The one thing about New Zealand is they don’t defend the ball very well.

“The Lions also have the ability to play and move the ball around with the likes of Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly, Jonathan Joseph and Liam Williams.

“That’s going to be crucial. The Lions will need to score two or three tries per Test because the All Blacks will score tries.

“The Lions will look to put a lot of traffic down [world player of the year] Beauden Barrett’s channel and try and make him make 10-15 tackles a game. I still think New Zealand will win, but I think the series will be a lot closer than people think.”

 

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