NEW captain Lewis Evans is confident that he will be leading out Newport Gwent Dragons when they get their RaboDirect Pro12 campaign under way at the end of the month.
A calf injury has forced the flanker to sit out the pre-season encounters against a Gwent Select XV and French aces Biarritz.
He will be on the sidelines once again in tomorrow evening’s final warm-up against London Irish but is confident that he will be able to don the number seven jersey in the league opener against Zebre.
Newport-born Evans, 25, took over from Luke Charteris as skipper this summer and admits it has been a frustrating period watching on while his charges are put through their paces on the training paddock.
He said: “I’ve had plenty of stick from the boys and I am looking forward to getting back so that I can put an end to that more than anything!
“I am dying to get out there and play a full part in the training sessions but the decision was made to be cautious. Rather than go out at around 80 per cent against London Irish it is much more important be 100 per cent against Zebre.
“I’d love that to be from the off but Darren Waters has been excellent over the last few weeks and wants to make it as difficult as possible for me to get the start, so I have to prove myself in training.”
Evans, who has been called up twice by Wales but is yet to be capped, has never captained the Dragons.
“I haven’t been able to fulfil the role to the maximum yet,” he said. “It’s very frustrating to have someone on the sideline telling you what to do when they are not getting beasted themselves.
“I’ve left it to them and, in any case, we have plenty of leaders in this squad that will help steer the ship throughout the season.”
One of those figures is veteran hooker Steve Jones, who deputised for Evans in Biarritz and will lead them against Irish.
The 35-year-old is demanding an improvement from the performance in the south of France as the countdown continues to their Pro12 opener.
He said: “Biarritz was always going to be tough because they start their season this weekend but then there was the heat – last time I played in conditions like that was with Wales in Japan in 2001.
“We went into the game fatigued after a hard week of pre-season training and while there were plenty of poor things in our performance they were also some positives.
“There needs to be an improvement in all departments against London Irish so that we have plenty of confidence for that first game against Zebre.
“Irish are always a quality outfit and after a few backroom changes their players will be desperate to impress. It should be a great test.”