Chris Evans did not have to trawl very far for a news item for the Locker Room section of his Drivetime show on BBC Radio 2 last night. One of his family received an international sporting call-up yesterday. Thom Evans, a spring-heeled wing with Glasgow Warriors, was one of six uncapped players named by the coach Frank Hadden in Scotland's 35-man training squad for the Six Nations Championship.
The 22-year-old, a star of the England Under-21 side the season before last, is related to the famous flame-haired presenter via his father. Brian Evans is a cousin of Chris. Brian is a sportsman of no little talent too. He has played as a professional on the European golf tour, winning the odd open along the way. He played in the Open when he was a boy of 18.
"I've met Chris quite a few times," Thom said. "Actually, I've been on his show with my brother, in the sports slot. It was quite funny, because Chris didn't know we were going to be on."
Thom and his brother Max, a utility back with Glasgow, were surprise guests in their dad's cousin's Locker Room last summer, when Thom was playing for Scotland A in the Churchill Cup and Max for Scotland Sevens on the International Rugby Board circuit. "Where do you get your ability, strength and power from?" Chris asked them. "Is it your piddly little dad, my cousin, or your towering athletic mother, who's strong as an ox from South Africa?"
"I'd have to say my mum," Thom replied. "Mum's got all the strength." As a sprinter in her youth, Sally Evans was the 100 metres provincial champion of Durban. Having been clocked at 10.8sec for the same distance in his school days, and appearing twice in the 100m final at the English Schools' Track and Field Championships, Thom has clearly inherited his mother's fast-twitch genes. He has also acquired some of his father's natural sporting skill.
While at school at Wellington College (the Berkshire alma mater of George Orwell, Christopher Lee, Rory Bremner, Stuart Barnes and other assorted luminaries), he played golf for the South of England Under-16s team. "It was against the north in a one-off cup," he recalled.
That was when Thom's handicap was down to two. It has since crept up to eight. His brother plays off scratch. Max, 24, was formerly a professional in Portugal, where his father is director of the Quinta do Lago course on the Algarve. When not on rugby duty, he has been attempting to gain a Professional Golfers' Association tour card.
They are certainly a gifted lot, these Evanses. In fact, Thom happens to have a notable string to his bow away from the sporting arena. After completing his school studies he planned to sign as a professional for Harlequins. Instead, he was offered an audition for a new "boy band". He spent a year on the road as a member of Twen2y4Se7en, touring with Westlife and McFly.
"We weren't like Westlife or Boyzone, just synchronised dancing and things," he maintained. "I played the bass guitar and sang. We were more like Busted, I guess. I have to say it's pretty nerve-racking going on stage. It's a different kind of feeling to playing in front of crowd at a rugby match. I don't know whether it's better or worse.
"It is pretty scary, but it's also a massive rush, like rugby. When you come off stage after performing in front of all those thousands of people, obviously it's a massive high. You really feel good and you can't wait to do it again. Performing in front of thousands of screaming girls wasn't exactly a bad thing."
Whether the former boy band pin-up last year voted the 12th most eligible man in Scotland gets the chance to strut his stuff on the Six Nations stage remains to be seen. Evans has missed much of Glasgow's highly impressive Heineken Cup campaign (including the home win against Biarritz and the tantalising defeat away to the Basques) but is expected to return following his latest setback concussion suffered in the Magner's League derby against Edinburgh at Murrayfield two weeks ago in the Pool Four match away to Viadana on Saturday.
Knee ligament damage has removed Sean Lamont from the Scotland selection equation, but Evans still has to contend with competition from Chris Paterson, Nikki Walker, Simon Webster and Simon Danielli for the spots on the wing. First up for the Scots are France at Murrayfield on Sunday 3 February and they could do worse than turn to a product of the educational establishment named after the man who masterminded the most celebrated defeat of the French, circa 1815.
James Haskell, expected to be the next big thing in the back row for England, played in the same Wellington College side as Evans. The pair are close friends. They played together at Wasps, too, when Evans gave up his boy band career and turned to rugby. Back in February 2006 they were also in the England Under-21 side that subjected the Scottish Under-21s to a 49-22 going-over at Falkirk. Evans ran in a brace of tries that night. So did Anthony Allen. The England team also featured Ryan Lamb, Tom Croft and Nick Abendanon.
Evans was actually born on Zimbabwean soil, in Harare. He chose to switch allegiance to the land of his grandfather when he moved to Glasgow in the summer of 2006 in search of first-team action. Ever since, his searing pace has earmarked him as an international-in-waiting for Scotland a turn of speed that has been honed with the help of the fastest ever flying Scotsman.
Allan Wells, the Edinburgh speed merchant who struck Olympic 100m gold in Moscow in 1980, and his wife and coach, Margot, have been working with Evans on his speed training and his conditioning. "Allan has given me some sports psychology help and Margot has trained me," Evans said. "They've been a massive help. They've changed the way I thought about the game and the way that I thought about training in general."
The Wellses have helped others too latterly putting an extra sting in the tails of two Wasps, Paul Sackey and Danny Cipriani. In Evans' case, though, they may well be guiding a future dual international. Like Eric Liddell before him, Evans harbours ambitions to utilise his speed for Scotland both on the track and on the rugby wing. His speed has improved since his school days and his best 100m time from then, 10.8sec, compares favourably with the best efforts of the leading Scottish sprinters of today. Only one Scot bettered 10.6sec for the distance last year.
Having made his high-speed mark in the English Schools' Championships, the flying wing is pondering whether to return to the fast lane if not to chase a place in the British team for the London Olympics of 2012 then in the Scottish team for the Glaswegian Commonwealth Games of 2014 "That's definitely an option," Evans said. "It depends on whether I get any serious rugby injuries. At the moment I'm really enjoying my rugby and if it goes as well as I hope then maybe athletics won't be an option for a while yet."
As for a return to the music stage, tune in to the Chris Evans show for any updates.Reuse content