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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 July 2018

Scotland’s Thom Evans scores twice at Dubai Rugby Sevens to make up for lost time

Five years after retiring from rugby having suffered a severe neck injury while playing a Test match for Scotland, Thom Evans finally stepped back onto a rugby field and t was like he had never been away, writes Paul Radley.
Thom Evans, right, of UR7s Wanderers, scores two tries in his first game back since a neck injury five years ago. Victor Besa for The National
Thom Evans, right, of UR7s Wanderers, scores two tries in his first game back since a neck injury five years ago. Victor Besa for The National

DUBAI // Five years after retiring from rugby having suffered a severe neck injury while playing a Test match for Scotland, Thom Evans finally stepped back onto a rugby field on Thursday night. It was like he had never been away.

Playing for the UR7s Wanderers against O’Neill’s Nomads in the International Open, he stepped past five defenders to score under the post with his first touch of the ball.

The match was one minute old at the time. Just to prove the point, he did exactly the same barely a minute later. He was back.

“I had a lot of mixed emotions going into it, but I am fortunate to be with such a good bunch of boys with UR7s,” Evans said.

“I fitted in quite comfortably and felt like I had never left the game, to be honest. I was a bit apprehensive, but I have done a lot of training, although not rugby specific.”

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Evans was reportedly a millimetre from paralysis after vertebrae in his neck were knocked so far out of place in a collision in a Six Nations match against Wales in 2010.

Two emergency operations stabilised his spine, but he was told, at age 25, he could never play rugby again. He refuses to contemplate the future past this weekend, but he said he feels blessed to have returned at all.

“I forgot how it felt to put a rugby ball down over the try line,” he said. “This whole thing feels very emotional. I never thought I would play again, so to be back here is a blessing.”

Evans is part of a UR7s side rich in talent and experience. Mat Turner was the player of the tournament when England won in Dubai four years ago, while Andy Vilk played for England when the Dubai Sevens used to be staged at the former ground in Al Awir.

Photo gallery: Day 1 action from Dubai Rugby Sevens

Tom Burwell, the manager of UR7s, was happy for the chance to add an old friend to the ranks for the tour to the UAE.

“I’ve known Thom for a number of years, I spoke to his physios completely out of the blue, and they said he was looking to play a bit of rugby,” Burwell said.

“I remember five years ago vividly. I played schoolboy rugby with Thom, and I remember that day being really awful.

“I have had other friends who have had some shocking rugby injuries that have left them in a bad way.

“When he scored that try, I was really proud that it happened with us, but I was most proud because my mate got over the line and was able to play some ball.”

pradley@thenational.ae

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