Evans promises Ulster won’t have it all their own way in
There's nothing to gain for Castres but a 'laissez-faire' attitude is the last thing on the French players' minds
Published 17/01/2013 | 05:00
Castres' flying Scot Max Evans has warned Ulster that his side will not willingly roll over as Mark Anscombe's men chase the maiden win on French soil that would guarantee them a vital home quarter-final.
With the French side already out of the competition, and unlikely to qualify for the second tier Amlin Challenge Cup, it could have been assumed that the French may display a typically laissez-faire attitude to their final pool game.
Evans, the 29-year-old Torquay-born utility back, underlines just why this will not be the case.
"From our point of view, whatever team we may put out, after injuries and stuff are taken into consideration, we will be giving 100pc because a lot of the guys are eager to make an impression," says the former golf pro.
"Pedrie Wannenburg would be a prime example of that. He's had a frustrating season; he hasn't been able to get a run of games.
"So, if he's playing against his old club, he will be up for it.
"And we tend to be a different team at home. It's commonly known that a lot of French teams don't travel well and I discovered that when I joined. No French team likes losing at home."
Castres, well-placed for the Top 14 play-offs, have only lost once at Stade Pierre-Antoine this season – unluckily to Toulouse – and they face a trip to Bayonne next Thursday evening which may soften their cough ahead of Ulster's visit.
They will also be without their metronomic goal-kicker Romain Teulet, while Daniel Kirkpatrick is also a doubt for the side's return fixture, following Ulster's late bonus point win in Ravenhill last October.
Ulster, whose stated intention under new coach Mark Anscombe is to go one better than last year and win the title this term, will only have themselves to blame should they fail to nab that crucial quarter-final home advantage.
Defeat to Northampton in an untypically nervous round four game and the failure to eke out a bonus point in defeating Glasgow last week in Ravenhill seem destined to conspire against them.
"We set out as a goal this year to get a home quarter-final, so we are certainly not resting on it," says Anscombe, under pressure to at least match the achievements of his predecessor, Brian McLaughlin, who took the side all the way to a Twickenham final last year.
"We want to reward our fans with a home quarter-final, so if we don't do that, we will let ourselves and our supporters down a little bit.
"Like many French teams, they have a home team and an away team. I think they have only lost one game at home this year.
"We know from what we have seen of them this year and playing them earlier in the first round that they are a formidable forward pack.
For his part, Evans' personal motivations are clear; he has only resumed playing after featuring in Scotland's dismal November loss to Tonga, the defeat that finally put paid to Andy Robinson's reign as national coach.
Dropped for the first time when fit for the previous week's clash against New Zealand, Evans is eager to impress new national boss Scott Johnson ahead of the Six Nations next month.
"It's been a frustrating time for me because I also missed the back-to-back games against Glasgow and that would have been a very special couple of weeks for me," explains the brother of Thom, whose international career was so cruelly ended by injury in 2010 when he was just 24.
Should Evans help his side to victory, the sacrifice for Ulster would be an opportunity to exploit home advantage in the last eight.
Not as embarrassing as the forfeit paid by Irish star Rob Kearney when he hooked up with the Evans brothers on a golf trip near their respective parents' houses in Portugal a while back.
"Max made him sing 'Especially For You' when he lost, which was particularly cruel since Rob had a hand injury at the time," smiles Evans.
And he aims to ensure Ulster leave there on Saturday after hating every minute of it.