Rugby Union: Evans decides to remain retired

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The Independent Online
IEUAN EVANS and Mark Jones are rarely mentioned in the same breath; one a saint, the other a sinner, they do not so much represent the contradictory faces of Welsh rugby as inhabit different planets. All the same, they both contrived to disappoint Graham Henry yesterday, leaving the new national coach wondering whether he might have been wiser to stay put in New Zealand.

Henry took it upon himself to float the idea of an Evans comeback at international level. And why not, indeed? The triple Lion and record-breaking former captain may have retired from the Test arena eight months ago, but for all his advancing years - he will be 35 in March - his club form at Bath has been sharp enough to suggest that few, if any, Welsh wings are within a loudhailer's range of the old maestro. There is also the little matter of a career that saw him score 33 tries in 72 appearances while wearing the famous red shirt.

Sadly for the Welsh, Evans rejected Henry's overtures in the time it usually takes him to finish off a flowing threequarter move. "It's very nice to be thought of with a World Cup looming and I thank Graham for it, but I wouldn't feel right going back on a decision that took a lot of heartache and soul-searching to arrive at in the first place," he said.

"I've one season left at Bath and if I'm going to set myself any more goals, they'll be of the short-term variety. I'm sticking to my guns."

Understandably, Henry was in no mood to sweet-talk the chastened Jones, who was sent off for rearranging young Ian Gough's eye socket with a Tysonesque punch during last weekend's Ebbw Vale-Pontypridd match and is now steeling himself for the longest suspension of a career already punctuated by disciplinary interruptions. The coach made it crystal clear that the 32-year-old No 8's international future was now on the line.

"What Jones did was deplorable and if he is ever sent off again I will never pick him for Wales," Henry said. "It simply isn't acceptable, this bringing the game into disrepute. I have told the whole squad about the need for discipline in a modern-day professional sport and Mark in particular needs to show a lot more control."

Jones has written to Gough yesterday - his letter was part craven apology, part desperate plea for forgiveness - and will seek help from a sports psychologist recommended by the Welsh management team. He is almost certain to miss the autumn internationals against South Africa and Argentina, although he trained with the national squad yesterday.

Henry suffered a further blow when Peter Rogers, the highly rated prop who played in South Africa for Transvaal before surfacing at London Irish, was ruled out of the pre-Christmas programme. Rogers lasted just 13 minutes of his club's match with Richmond last weekend before retiring with knee trouble and may not appear again before the new year.

The Wales-South Africa showpiece at Wembley on 14 November will be refereed by Stuart Dickinson, an Australian who has yet to officiate at Test level. Other refereeing newcomers include England's Chris White, who has been awarded the Scotland-South Africa match at Murrayfield on 21 November, and New Zealand's Paul Honnis, who takes charge of England's meeting with the Wallabies at Twickenham on 28 November.

At English club level, cash-strapped Bedford welcome back Junior Paramore to their back row for Saturday's Premiership match with Harlequins. The Western Samoan will link up with Roy Winters, the England A flanker dropped for last weekend's defeat at Bath.

Gloucester, meanwhile, will give Simon Mannix, the former All Black stand- off, his first start in the cherry and white No 10 shirt against Swansea, the pick of this week's rebel Anglo-Welsh matches.

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