Evans hopes brother never plays again

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The Independent Online

A mixture of Roman sunshine and grey clouds greeted Andy Robinson as Scotland's head coach led out his players for afternoon training at the Stadio Flaminio yesterday. There was also a sign at the top of the stand opposite which read "Welcome England".

These have been disorienting times for Scottish rugby. For the player wearing the No 13 jersey as Robinson put his players through their eve-of-match paces, they have been worrying times too. There have been weightier matters on Max Evans' mind this past fortnight than the roller-coaster ride of a Six Nations contest against Wales that took the Scots from a 24-14 lead to a 31-24 defeat in four minutes of Millennium Stadium madness.

Talking for the first time in public yesterday about the plight of his younger brother, who was left suffering from a serious neck injury in the midst of the Cardiff match, Evans revealed he had been told that Thom had come within a millimetre of paralysis or worse. The Glasgow centre also said he hoped his 24-year-old brother would never attempt to play again – such was the severity of his condition.

Thom is back home in Glasgow after two operations at the University Hospital in Cardiff. Max will be back on Six Nations duty for the Scots against Italy today, mightily relieved that his brother is making a recovery and deeply thankful to Scotland's team doctor, James Robson. Speaking of the lengthy period in which Robson and the Welsh medical staff tended to Thom on the pitch, Max confided: "James told me if Thom had been moved a millimetre it could have been fatal or he could have been paralysed. James Robson has been amazing.

"I was upset at the time but not too worried, because I thought it was just concussion. When you see all those people around him, you've seen people with head injuries before and they go through those precautions all the time. That is how they saved Thommy.

"It was only after the game, when I got to the hospital, that I realised the severity of it. They were reading out the clearance form – the waiver, or whatever – so I knew it was pretty serious then. As a brother, my reaction was complete fear and worry."

That concern remains, even though Thom has been able to get back on his feet again. Asked whether his brother – capped 10 times on the wing by Scotland – would play again, Max replied: "I would like to think so, but at the same time I know the ins and outs of what has happened to his neck, what has been said. Put it this way: it will be a while before it is even considered. If I would be saying, I would not like him to play. That is my thought right now just because of what he has been through. But it is up to him."

Thom made his first public comment yesterday, praising the medical professionals who had helped him: "The care I received in Cardiff was outstanding," he said.

Robinson had no qualms about pitching in Max – a try-scorer who was a replacement against Wales – into a starting berth against Italy. "Max is fit and he's playing," Scotland's head coach said. "There's no issue for him."

The pressing issue for the Scots today is the need to put a Six Nations win on the board – and to flush the disappointment of that Cardiff capitulation out of the system."I'm confident there are no hang-ups from a fortnight ago," Robinson maintained. "I'm looking forward to how we respond."

By the time training finished yesterday, the "Welcome England" sign had been taken down. Even an ugly, England-style victory would be welcome for Scotland – although, as they showed for 70-odd minutes in Cardiff, they are capable of much more.

Italy v Scotland

Rome teams

Italy

L McLean (Treviso) 15

A Masi (R Metro) 14

G Canale (Clermont) 13

G Garcia (Treviso) 12

Mi Bergamasco (SF) 11

C Gower (Bayonne) 10

T Tebaldi (Parma) 9

S Perugini (Bayonne) 1

L Ghiraldini (Cal, capt) 2

M C’giovanni (Lei) 3

Q Geldenhuys (Viad) 4

M Bortolami (Glo) 5

J Sole (Viadana) 6

Ma Bergamasco (SF) 7

A Zanni (Treviso) 8

Replacements: F Ongaro, M Aguero (both Saracens),C del Fava, P Canavosio, K Robertson (all Viadana), P Derbyshire (Padova), RBocchino (Rovigo).

Scotland

H Southwell (SF) 15

S Danielli (Ulster) 14

M Evans (Glasgow) 13

G Morrison (Glas) 12

S Lamont (Scarlets) 11

D Parks (Glasgow) 10

C Cusiter (Glas, capt) 9

A Jacobsen (Edin) 1

R Ford (Edinburgh) 2

E Murray (North) 3

J Hamilton (Edin) 4

A Kellock (Glasgow) 5

K Brown (Glasgow) 6

J Barclay (Glasgow) 7

J Beattie (Glasgow) 8

Replacements: S Lawson, A Dickinson, A Strokosch (all Gloucester), N Hines (Leinster), M Blair, P Godman, N De Luca (all Edinburgh).

Referee D Pearson (England)

Kick-off Today, 1.30pm TV BBC1

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