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Evans ready to make his move

Things have changed in the Scotland back line since Max Evans was last selected to start at outside- centre.

Max Evans believes playing at 13 will give him chance to create opening for his team-mates. Picture: SNS
Max Evans believes playing at 13 will give him chance to create opening for his team-mates. Picture: SNS

What surrounded him then were players chosen mainly for their power. Tomorrow, he finds himself in the centre alongside Matt Scott, a playmaker in the Kiwi-style second five eight mould, he has another player blessed with dazzling footwork behind him in Stuart Hogg and the best finisher in European rugby outside him in Tim Visser.

The former Glasgow Warrior, who is now with French club Castres, is excited by the prospect, not least because, this time around, the opposition may not be viewing him as Scotland's main source of creativity.

"There could be more focus on those guys as major threats which could mean there's a bit more space for me," said Evans. "They might not recognise the kind of damage I can cause, as well. I'd almost be happy if people see the threat being some of the other lads rather than myself because that creates more opportunity for me."

Not that there has been any drop off in Evans' natural confidence and he is pleased to report that his defence- breaking capacity has been recognised in the way Scotland are setting themselves to play against the Tongans.

"It is recognised the things I can do, so I'm not worried about not getting the ball as much as I did in the past when I played 13," he said.

"There are a couple of moves thrown in there that I like to do, something I enjoy doing when I play 13 in France and they have been received well.

"He [head coach Andy Robinson] knows my game and knows I don't just like to create space for myself, I like to create it for others, as well. There are a few moves to get me involved more than others and it is great to have the backing of the coaching team to do that."

Omitted from the match squad last week for the first time in his Scotland career when fully fit, how best to use Evans has clearly exercised Robinson's mind over the years and the coach has experimented with giving his most dangerous attacker a looser role off the wing during the past two years.

"I've really enjoyed playing on the wing because I've been given free rein to pop up anywhere in the back line, but 13's something I'm used to, something I've gained a lot of experience in and something I'm comfortable in," Evans noted. All things considered, then, he can be forgiven for being mistaken when claiming, as he did this week, that this will be the first time he has pulled on that shirt for Scotland for two years.

There was one fleeting appearance, against Ireland earlier this year, but he had been selected on the bench that day and was only called into the starting line-up at the last minute when Nick De Luca withdrew through injury. This, though, is the first time since 2010 that he has spent the week preparing in his preferred position and he knows that, as Robinson said following this week's team announcement, this is an important game for him to show that he can get the balance of discipline and creativity right.

"I wasn't here when Andy said it was an important game for me, but it's something he's said to me personally. Although I'd happily play in any jersey for Scotland, I'm not going to lie, playing 13 is my favourite position. It's the position that got me into the Scotland jersey in the first place," said Evans. "So this is a real opportunity for me because it's my chance to show why I should be playing there. I put a lot of importance on it myself because I've got a point to prove and that will be my main focus on the weekend."

Evans said he respected the coach's decision to leave him out of the 23 against South Africa but he did express frustration at watching the amount of possession Scotland ultimately squandered. "Watching the amount of possession we had, which is something I am always asking for when I am on the field and it is not always there, was frustrating, I'd love to have been out there to see what I could have done with that much possession," he said.

The task is to do a great deal more than Scotland have since it should be a source of discomfort for all involved – other than the Dutch-born winger himself – that it took just three matches for Visser to become Scotland's highest try-scorer in the Robinson-led era.

Doubtless some spin-meisters might tell us that is healthy because, as our accompanying table shows, so many squad members have got on the score-sheet in the past three years.

A try-count of 34 which matches the number of games Robinson has been in charge is not, however, cause for fear and trepidation elsewhere, particularly when almost one-third of those – 11 – were scored in four wins against Fiji, Romania and Samoa, with five more in defeats to France in the past two years.

Tomorrow, then, Scotland must show they can generate real fire-power ahead of tougher tasks to come, and Evans is the likeliest figure to spark it.

FOR THE RECORD

Scotland's lack of fire-power under head coach Andy Robinson is demonstrated by the fact that it took Tim Visser only three matches to become the leading try-scorer during the Englishman's time in charge, writes Kevin Ferrie.

In all, they have now scored exactly a try a game in the 34 matches since the former England head coach was given the job in mid-2009.

However, some encouragement can be drawn from the fact that the try-scoring rate has more than doubled since Scott Johnson replaced Gregor Townsend as attack coach with 10 of the 34 tries having been registered in the five matches since the Australian joined the management team for Scotland's summer tour.

Joe Ansbro, the player whose tally Visser overtook with his brace of scores against the All Blacks, is meanwhile scheduled to speak publicly for the first time today since suffering a broken bone in his neck earlier this season.

4 Visser

3 Ansbro

2 Danielli, Beattie, M Evans, Walker, Blair, Laidlaw

1 Barclay, Brown, Cross, De Luca, Dickinson, Gray, Hamilton, Harley, Hogg, Jones, Kellock, S Lamont, Morrison, Pyrgos (plus one pen try)

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