CHRIS KIRWAN: Dragons must up their game to earn deserved caps for Evans & Co
10:01am Thursday 24th April 2014 in Sport
TIME will tell whether Warren Gatland meant his pre-Judgement Day talk of the double-header being a trial for international honours or whether it was just hollow waffle.
The Wales boss wants to take a strong squad to South Africa for June's two-Test tour and pledged to cast a close eye over the Easter Sunday events at the Millennium Stadium.
"As far as we are concerned in the Wales management it's a chance for players to put a hand up and show why they should be in the squad," said Gatland.
"We will be looking to take our strongest available squad to South Africa but eye-catching performances between now and then could be the difference between going and not.
"I'm really excited about Judgement Day because derbies tend to bring the best out of players. They're as close as you can get to an unofficial trial."
Therefore Newport Gwent Dragons back row forward Lewis Evans must be in the mix after a superb display against the Ospreys when he led by example as stand-in skipper and made 17 tackles in a mammoth defensive effort.
I have sung his praises so frequently that I fear a restraining order may be coming but the 26-year-old should be on that plane to South Africa, especially if he follows up with a fine showing against the Scarlets.
There are openings in the back row with Sam Warburton out and Justin Tipuric potentially going under the knife and Evans – who can play 6, 7 and 8 – has had an excellent season.
It would a slap in the face if Gatland leaves him out and plumps for lock Bradley Davies on the blindside, as he suggested he might do to combat the physical Springboks.
If Evans is wearing flip-flops rather than boots in June then he could lament the Dragons' position in the RaboDirect Pro12 – the region needs to make progress if their players are to edge close calls.
There was a landmark occasion for Exeter in the Six Nations when the rapidly-developing Devon outfit provided more members of an England squad – Jack Nowell and Tom Johnson – than traditional big guns Leicester.
At recent times the Dragons have provided fewer players in the Wales matchday squad than Perpignan. Hopefully that will be a thing of the past.
Eleven members of the Under-20s squad that will head to New Zealand for this summer's Junior World Championship come from Rodney Parade.
One of them, Hallam Amos, is already capped and I am confident that at least a handful of his young colleagues will play for the Wales seniors before the 2019 World Cup.
But the Dragons need to be pressing for top-half finishes rather than scrambling at the basement if they are to stop grumbling about being overlooked by the national selectors.
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