12:11pm Friday 10th January 2014
By Chris Kirwan
FULL-BACK Dan Evans gets the chance to send a message to the Newport Gwent Dragons management – and potential suitors – when he lines up against Bath tomorrow afternoon.
The in-form number 15 gets the nod for the Amlin Challenge Cup encounter with the West Country outfit, who will secure top spot in Pool Two if they avoid defeat.
The Dragons are boosted by the return from injury of Wales pair Andrew Coombs and Tom Prydie at lock and wing respectively.
Centre Ross Wardle, scrum-half Richie Rees, tighthead Nathan Buck and flankers Jevon Groves and Nic Cudd are also given the nod.
Bath are captained by Wales loosehead prop Paul James and include Gavin Henson in midfield and ex-Scarlets flanker Mat Gilbert.
Evans looks likely to be a victim of the summer arrival of Wales ace Lee Byrne, who has signed a two-year deal to return home from Clermont Auvergne.
With the Dragons also securing the services of Aled Brew for the next three seasons, the books need to be balanced and Evans is out of contract this summer.
Other clubs are now free to make their move for the 25-year-old and it’s unlikely that he will be short of offers, especially after being named man of the match despite the Dragons going down to defeat at Cardiff Blues on New Year’s Day.
Evans, who was capped twice by Wales on the tour of North America in 2009, has been a real hit since arriving from the Scarlets in the summer of 2012.
He was the Dragons’ top try scorer last season after crossing the whitewash nine times and played in 24 of 32 games, showing his versatility to fill in at fly-half on eight occasions before an ankle injury ended his campaign prematurely.
His fine form has continued in 2013/14 and he has missed just two games – the Amlin Challenge Cup clash with minnows Mogliano and the LV= Cup encounter with London Wasps.
Evans, like former British and Irish Lion Byrne, possesses a booming left peg but looks likely to be plying his trade elsewhere next season.
The Dragons also have recent Wales debutant Hallam Amos on their books and the talented teenager has frequently stated that full-back is his preferred position despite being largely fielded on the wing.
Newport Gwent Dragons: D Evans, M Pewtner, R Wardle, A Smith, T Prydie, J Tovey, R Rees, O Evans, R Thomas, N Buck, A Coombs (captain), R Sidoli, J Groves, N Cudd, T Faletau. Replacements: E Dee, H Gustafson, D Way, M Screech, I Jones, L Jones, S Jones, P Leach
Bath: A Watson, R Lane, G Henson, O Devoto, T Biggs, T Heathcote, M Young, P James (captain), E Guinazu, J P Orlandi, D Day, R Caldwell, M Gilbert, Fearns, L Houston. Replacements: R Batty, A Perenise, K Newport, M Garvey, G Mercer, M Roberts, J Joseph, M Banahan.
Referee: Laurent Cardona (France)
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