AFTER frequently being the one cursing his luck on the sidelines, Newport Gwent Dragons scrum-half Jonathan Evans is desperate to grasp an opening provided by someone else’s injury misfortune.
The 20-year-old from Bargoed will be on the bench for the region’s RaboDirect Pro12 opener against Zebre at Rodney Parade tomorrow evening.
He finds himself as back-up to Wayne Evans after Joe Bedford underwent a summer shoulder operation that means he will miss the first few weeks of the campaign.
Evans burst onto the scene when he made his regional debut against the Ospreys in 2010 – becoming the Dragons’ youngest player – but injuries stalled his progress.
A broken wrist meant he was sidelined for the first few months of the following season and last year he pulled his hamstring in pre-season, ruling him out until Christmas. He heads into this term with just 13 regional appearances and three starts to his name.
But for the first time in three seasons Evans is not playing fitness catch-up and is determined to grasp his opportunity.
"It’s strange that I’m not the injured one for once but I’ve got to take my chance," said Evans, who was a member of the Wales Under-20s squad at the summer’s Junior World Championship.
"I’ve been told that this is the season for me by both (director of rugby) Robert Beale and (head coach) Darren Edwards. They’ve put a lot of faith in me and it’s got to be a big year.
"Last season was totally mucked up by my hamstring injury and I was playing catch-up from the start.
"In the end my aim was just to get in that squad for the Junior World Championship but this season it is all about nailing down a place in the Dragons squad.
"Of course I want to be pushing for first choice and to get the start ahead of Wayne but first of all I just want to be involved and to have a full season."
And helping Evans in that bid to earn the number nine jersey is the man whose place on the bench he has taken.
"Joe has been a great help," he said. "He hasn’t been able to play a massive part in training so has been looking over what I’ve been doing and giving me pointers.
"He has been working really hard with me and I appreciate that.
"Darren said that he brought Joe in because of his experience as well as his ability and that shows.
"He knew that Joe could offer plenty of advice to me as a young player and what he has done has definitely helped out with my game."
So if Evans can show a touch of class in a cameo tomorrow night then it may just bring a smile to a fellow number nine suffering from the injury blues that he knows all too well.