'It's a dream come true to both run out for Scotland'
Via boy band and golf course, the Evans brothers have taken an unconventional route to the top, writes Simon Turnbull
Saturday 14 February 2009
Fortunately for the Caledonian public, there were no boy bands around when the first set of brothers played together for Scotland. There was a boy, though, among the trail-blazing Finlays that day in 1875. Ninian Finlay was still a schoolboy, a pupil of Edinburgh Academy, when he lined up with his brothers, Arthur and James, to face England at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh. Just a month past his 17th birthday, he came the closest to scoring – with a drop goal attempt – in a 0-0 draw that has long since disappeared into the mists of time.
It seems there was no shortage of scoring opportunities for the Evans brothers, who line up in tandem for Scotland for the first time this afternoon against France in Paris, in the days when Thom was a boy band star and Max a loyal follower of Twen2y 4 Se7en. As Max recalled when their selection as back-line colleagues was confirmed, he used to get recognised by screaming girls in the crowd at concerts and would run away from them. "I just want to stress they weren't the pretty girls," Thom interjected. "If they'd been nice girls, then he probably would have stayed around."
It is five years now since Thom was on the road with his band, touring in the company of Westlife, Peter Andre and McFly and getting the odd pair of knickers thrown at him by screaming young female fans. You can see him on YouTube smooching with a blonde on a beach that looks somewhat more sunkissed than Portobello or North Berwick. He is singing along to "Patiently Waiting" a single described on ukmusic.org as sounding "like it has been made on the budget of a three-year-old's pocket money." Another of Twen2y 4 Se7en's efforts, "Hide", moved a reviewer on ukmusic.com to compare it to a Lada – "it just doesn't go anywhere."
With three caps as a Scotland wing behind him (against Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa last year) and a first Six Nations appearance ahead of him in the Stade de France today, Thom is honest enough to concede that there was never much chance of the music business becoming a permanent career for him. "I knew it was never really going to take off," he said. "I'm not saying we were bad. But we had an independent record label behind us, so the money was never really there to get us on the scene. It was always in the back of my mind that rugby was what I wanted to do."
Prior to his gap year in the pop world, Thom played with his elder brother in a Wellington College first team that also included James Haskell. After hanging up his microphone and bass guitar, he spent two years in the academy set-up at Wasps with the future England flanker and also with one Daniel Cipriani. He also ran in a brace of tries for the England Under-21 side in a 49-22 victory against Scotland's Under-21s at Falkirk in February 2006. That was before he joined Glasgow and decided to pursue senior international honours with the land of his Glaswegian grandfather.
Thom happens to be blessed with a natural turn of pace. He reached two English schools' sprint finals and his mother, Sally, was the Natal provincial 100m champion in her youth. With expert tuition from Margot Wells (the wife and coach of Allan Wells, the Olympic 100m champion of 1980), he has honed his speed as a flying wing, plundering a hat-trick of tries for Glasgow away to Bath in the Heineken Cup in December and topping the Magners League try-scoring chart ahead of Doug Howlett. Such has been his razor-sharp form this season, it caused quite a stir when the 23-year-old was deemed surplus to requirements for Scotland's Six Nations opener against Wales at Murrayfield last Sunday. It came as little surprise when he was picked for left-wing duty for today's game in Paris, with his 25-year-old brother being drafted into the starting line up at outside centre, making them the 20th set of brothers to play together for Scotland.
Max made his Scotland debut as a replacement against Canada in November and won his second cap as a substitute last Sunday, eluding Shane Williams and Lee Byrne to score the only Scottish try in a 26-13 defeat. A Harlequins player in his youth, and a professional golfer for two years before returning to rugby, the fact that his first international start coincides with a recall for his little brother make this Valentine's Day date in Paris a particularly poignant occasion.
"When I first came up to Scotland, my first aim was to play for Glasgow with Thom," Max reflected. "Then we saw the Lamont brothers playing together for Scotland and it was, like, 'Let's join the club'. It is a dream come true. We're just going to try to repeat the small kind of successes we've had with Glasgow."
A repeat of the success the Evanses enjoyed with Sean Lineen's side in Toulouse on 17 January would do very nicely. Max ran in the third try in a 33-26 victory against the three times champions of Europe, who provide four of the backs in the French XV today. "That is definitely a big plus for us going into this match," Thom maintained.
Whatever happens, it will to be a day to remember for the Evans boys – even more so with their father Brian, a former golf pro, interrupting a long-arranged holiday in Barbados to make it to the Stade de France. In fact, it has been quite a week for the Evans family.
As Max reminded their dad's celebrity cousin on his "Drivetime" show on BBC Radio 2 on Wednesday tea-time: "Congratulations on baby Noah." In his eagerness to discuss the Paris match, Chris Evans had neglected to mention his new-born son. "Well, he's part of the clan now," he told his second cousins and his listeners. "Let's hope we have another celebration after the game on Saturday."
Ruck and roll: Other rugby rockers
*MEATLOAF The larger than life rocker played rugby when he was still Marvin Lee Aday growing up in Dallas in the Sixties and is still a fan of the game.
*LION BARS Scotland scrum-half Chris Cusiter and team-mate Kelly Brown have been known to play in a covers band led by former Lion and TV commentator John Beattie.
*JAM And perhaps following the line from Eton Rifles – 'All that rugby puts hairs on your chest' – Martin Johnson is a massive Jam fan.
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