History beckons if Nick Evans stays at Harlequins

Evans Harlequins Fly-half

Nick Evans is thought of by many, including myself, as the best fly-half in the Northern Hemisphere. This is of course debatable and I have spent many hours arguing over who is better: perhaps Jonny Sexton (on his day), or Priestland, Flood, O’Gara or even Wilko down in Toulon, but consistently it’s very hard to argue for anyone other than Evans.

His non-selection for the All Blacks in the 2008 Tri-Nations – whilst still mystifying – was a revelation, as it gave those of us who enjoy free-flowing skilful rugby someone to marvel at in the North. His arrival at Harlequins and the club’s subsequent revival is certainly no coincidence.

Since he joined Quins and signed his first contract in 2008, he has enjoyed both ecstasy and heartbreak in equal measure, and his stay has not been without its fair share of controversy either.

In his first season, he helped achieve back-to-back victories over Stade Francais in the Heineken Cup. This is certainly no small feat today, but given their squad at that time included names such as Hernandez, both Bergamasco brothers, Roncero, Szarzewski, Marconnet, Parisse and Leguizamon – all of whom would be on or at least very near to a team sheet for a World XV back in 2008 – it is a pretty impressive achievement.

Then in 2009, after the revelations of Bloodgate and the demise of Dean Richards, there was a raft of changes at Harlequins – but Evans still helped the club through a torrid time with their name being dragged through the mud, and he assisted them to a respectable 8th in the league.

In his third season, with time helping to heal some of the gaping wounds of Bloodgate, Evans guided Harlequins to an historic away victory in Thomond Park against a resurgent Munster. This was only their second defeat in European competition at home, and the Limerick faithful seemed shell-shocked to have lost. Evans though wasn’t finished, as the season culminated for Quins with their first serious cup win in years. He secured the Amlin Challenge Cup with the last kick of the match to seal a 19-18 victory over a hugely deflated Stade Francais side.

Nick Evans RPA Winner Nevertheless, last season was the one to make people stand up and take note of what was happening at Harlequins. Their unbeaten start to the season and the All Blacks’ injury crisis during the Rugby World Cup shone a light on Evans’ performances. This fantastic season culminated with their first ever Aviva Premiership title after they defeated Leicester Tigers in the final, and Evans was voted the Players’ Player of the Season by the RPA.

All this will be by-the-by though if Harlequins do not tie him down for the reminder of his career. Evans’ current contract expires as the end of this season and at the age of 32, his next deal will probably be his last. The man is quite simply a rugby genius and if he can avoid serious injury, he could help Harlequins create a dynasty similar to those at Wasps under Dallagio et al and at Leicester under Johnson.

Evans said on this very matter that, “I’m no spring chicken, but I’d also love to stay. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.” Which is why I am saying loud and clear for everyone to hear, “SIGN HIM UP CONOR, SIGN HIM UP!”

4 thoughts on “History beckons if Nick Evans stays at Harlequins

  1. I think the default move for Nev will be to stay at Quins. He’s built up a huge fan base, the way the team plays suits him and he probably has some unfinished business when it comes to the Heineken Cup (or whatever it will be called in the future!)

    The question is, will Quins shell out to keep him. If they do, they also need an understudy as (as you point out) this will likely be his last deal. At the moment Clegg, while improving, is not quite at Premiership level imho. Botica has come in but I think he will be used more as a back up for both FH and centre.

    One thing is for sure though, Quins would not be where they are now were it not for Nick Evans!

  2. I’m not so sure that he will stay. The BIG money is in France or Japan and he’s said that he is not adverse to leaving the comforts of home for rugby reasons.

    Re. his replacement has been Clegg in the past, but he’s not been as reliable as hoped. So it looks like Botica has been signed as Evans understudy to learn his traits and the way he plays so that he can fit in when Evans finally, lets hope not for a long time yet says goodbye.

    Finally I definitely agree with Nick W that Harlequins would not be defending champions without Evans, but we’re not talking about where they’ve been, more where they can go. With Evans in control Harlequins should have a realistic hope of making at least the semi’s in both Aviva and Heineken.

  3. I thought his hamstrings/knees were giving up on him but catching some highlights this season he’s sprinting about the park. Great player.

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