Wales 16-9 France, Six Nations
Evans lays praise at Gatland's door
March 18, 2012
Ian Evans keeps a close eye on Imanol Harinordoquy © Getty Images
Ian Evans has praised boss Warren Gatland for his own remarkable rise after helping Wales towards their Grand Slam.
Ospreys lock Evans featured in every minute of every game during a campaign the World Cup semi-finalists ended by adding Grand Slam and title glory to their earlier Triple Crown achievement. He also boasts a perfect Six Nations record - nine wins from nine games - having been involved in four matches during Wales' 2008 Grand Slam season.
Evans then spent three years in Test match exile due to a succession of serious injuries, but he underlined his status as Welsh rugby's renaissance man by playing a starring role throughout an intense tournament.
"The nine wins from nine is a nice statistic, but it is more about the team effort than myself," Evans said. "I have always said once I get a run of games I am a better player, a more confident player.
"I am just chuffed to bits that I have been able to have a run of games and a bit of faith shown in me by 'Gats' (Wales coach Warren Gatland), and hopefully I have repaid that. I never got close to packing it in when I had the injuries.
"The main thing that makes me happy is playing rugby, and the times when I wasn't happy were because I wasn't playing rugby."
Evans, who missed out on the World Cup last autumn, identified Wales' pre-Six Nations camp in Poland and the mobile cryotherapy unit they have use of at their Vale of Glamorgan training base and the Millennium Stadium as key factors behind Gatland's latest triumph. Cryotherapy treatment speeds up recovery time between training sessions, and it has become an essential part of Wales' preparation.
"We went out to Poland for a good week's training, and we are lucky to have the cryotherapy chamber. It helps us to recover quicker and the training is more intense," Evans said. "Physically and mentally, we've probably had an edge because of that.
"The cryo chambers are awful. It is minus 110 to minus 140 degrees, which is never pleasant. You are stuck half-naked in a fridge-freezer really, but you get used to it and see the benefits of it. Everyone buys into it."
Wales once again displayed their mental resilience when the going got tough against France, retaining composure and making correct decisions during a nerve-wracking final 15 minutes as they closed out the game for a 16-9 victory.
"It feels absolutely fantastic," Evans said. "We showed self-belief from the start of the campaign, and it came right through at the end, but to be fair we were made to work for it.
"The last 10 minutes were very tense, but we kept our composure. We've matured a lot, especially in the last 10 minutes of games, trying to keep possession of the ball, and we did that. There was a lot of pressure, a lot of expectation. It's a bit hard when you live in Wales and you are walking down the street and everyone is on to you mentioning the Grand Slam.
"We've got a young squad, and to be fair I think everyone kept their cool and came up trumps. Hopefully, I contributed a bit to it."
Attention now switches to Wales' three-Test tour of Australia in June, a summer expedition that offers an important early indicator for Gatland on route to World Cup 2015.
"We've made a statement for northern hemisphere rugby, and I think the summer will be a big test for us as a group of players in Australia to see where we are," Evans said. "From a Welsh point of view, we've won the northern hemisphere title and now we go to Australia."
Whether captain Sam Warburton makes the trip, though, is unclear at this stage as he prepared for scans on the shoulder injury that forced him off against France.
"To be honest, my body has been creaking ever since the World Cup," Warburton said. "There is the Australian tour, which would be good, but I am not sure what is going to happen regards myself now."
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