Evans may only have scored one try in the course of a 10-cap career that had begun in Argentina in June 2008, but his alacrity near the line, as demonstrated on so many occasions for Glasgow, was the very quality Scotland lacked in New Zealand this year.
Nor would it have been any sort of liability to have a player with the sort of blistering pace that even now allows him to ponder the possibility that he could become an international sprinter instead.
The irony of it all is that Evans has probably had a higher profile since leaving rugby than he ever had when he was playing the game. A small part of that is due to his role as an on-screen summariser for ITV’s World Cup coverage; a far larger part is the consequence of his relationship with Kelly Brook, the actress/model whose charms fuel the fantasies of tabloid editors and teenage boys alike.
As it is not so long since Evans’ dalliances with celebrity added up to a brief stint in the boy band Twen2y4se7en and being on packs of Scott’s Porage Oats, his sudden elevation to the top of the A-list could be a mind-addling experience. Yet as you might expect from one of his athletic prowess, he has a talent for taking things in his stride.
“It is a bit odd,” he concedes, his gift for understatement clearly intact after two torrid years on life’s emotional rollercoaster. “It’s certainly a big difference from living the quiet life with my brother Max in Glasgow. But it comes with the territory, I suppose. It’s something that doesn’t really phase me any more.”
Evans was still adjusting to the realities of life in the baleful glare of the media spotlight when Brook’s pregnancy, announced last March, cranked up the attention levels even higher. Two months later, the couple confirmed that she had suffered a miscarriage. It was a difficult time.
“It’s hard because it’s something that you wouldn’t really want a lot of people to know about. But at the same time, because it was so public we got a lot of support and kind words from people,” said Evans. “In a way, it was like when I had my injury. I got a lot of supportive messages from people I didn’t know and they really helped me. They helped me get over it and it was similar with the miscarriage. We got some very kind notes and they were really helpful to us.”
In his mind, Evans has recovered completely from the juddering tackle which ended his playing days in the Millennium Stadium last year. His neck, though, is still vulnerable to further damage, so any outlet he seeks for his competitive instincts cannot involve the sort of contact or collisions that are part and parcel of rugby.
However, he has signed up to take part in the DHL First Nation Home, a 1000-mile race around the British Isles among teams of celebrities and sports figures from Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales. The purpose of the event, which takes place next March, is to raise funds for Sports Relief, but Evans admits that just getting back into competition of any sort is an attraction.
“Everyone is very excited to get everything up and running,” says the 26-year-old, whose Scottish team will include cyclist Graeme Obree and TV presenter Andrea McLean. “A couple of guys have been training quite hard already and are just keen to get started. We’re all looking forward to raising a lot of money for charity.
“There’s running, cycling, rowing and sailing. I’ve been working on my endurance running a bit more. I hope that’s my biggest strength and I shouldn’t be too bad at the cycling or rowing. But I’ve never sailed in my life, so that part will be interesting. I will just do what I am told there I guess.”
In a perverse sort of way, the cruelest part of Evans’ injury is that he feels no after-effects. Even a little stiffness in the neck would be a salutary reminder of how close he came to paralysis and even death, but he feels as well and as healthy now as he ever did. As a consequence, watching Scotland come up short at the World Cup was a maddening experience.
“I probably feel the disappointment more than I would if I was playing,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate in the way I’ve recovered from the injury in the sense that I feel that I can do everything I could do before, but that also makes it slightly harder to take. I’m watching the guys and thinking I could still be playing. It’s really tough.”
In time he will move on, but it is clear that Evans is still living and breathing every minute of every game. The fact his brother is still there only intensifies his sense that something has been whisked away from him. And, of course, Scotland’s results and performances didn’t exactly ease the pain.
“Obviously I still know all the guys really well,” he says. “I really feel for them. It was so frustrating because I feel we do have the players in people like Max, Sean Lamont, Joe Ansbro, Nick De Luca and those guys. But we just didn’t seem to get the ball to them in the right areas of the park, in the opposition 22. I don’t understand what the reason was. Every time we got into a great position to score we didn’t get the ball to our best ball carriers. I found it immensely frustrating. I honestly feel that it will fall into place, though, because having trained with all those guys I know we have the players to do it. I definitely feel there are positives to be taken and it will move in the right direction. But it will only change when we start executing our chances.”
His television role during the World Cup only heightened Evans’ desire to carve out a media career, preferably in a presenting role. He also spent three months at the Lee Strasberg acting school in Los Angeles, and is considering whether to return there and try out for some parts. “It’s a bit of a pot luck industry, but you might as well give it a try and see what happens,” he says.
Having only recently faced the possibility of never walking again, you could say Evans has landed on his feet. But for all that his new life is lining up quite nicely, there is still a hankering for the one he used to have.
“The hardest thing of all is losing that camaraderie of the team environment,” he says, with obvious feeling. “That has been tough. The feeling of going to training with good mates, seeing all the guys, I really miss having that.
“I think rugby creates that feeling more than any other sport. Everyone who has ever played the game will say the same thing, and it was especially strong at Glasgow and with Scotland.
“You just take it for granted when you’re playing. But you really miss it when it’s not part of your life any more.”