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Evans hopes place in the Aviva top tier will rejuvenate chances of an international recall.

Byline: Simon Thomas Rugby correspondent simon.thomas@walesonline.co.uk

IAN EVANS V says he would love to a play for Wales again as he sets his sights on gaining promotion to the Aviva Premiership with Bristol.

It's almost two years since the double Grand Slam-winning lock earned the last of his 33 caps on the 2014 summer tour of South Africa.

Since then he has slipped out of the frame having headed for the second-tier English Championship and suffering a serious knee injury which kept him out of action for ten months.

But now he's back and firing again, as he demonstrated with a man-of-the-match display in Bristol's 28-13 victory away to Doncaster in this week's Championship play-off final first leg.

That result has seen the west country club put one foot in the Premiership with the second leg at a sold-out Ashton Gate coming up next Wednesday.

After enduring play-off heartbreak for the last two years, Bristol now look odds on to finally make the promised land and that would put Evans right back in the international show window.

Still only 31, he would relish the opportunity to re-visit the Test arena and pull on the red jersey once more.

"I'd love to play for Wales again, without a doubt," the former Ospreys second row told Scrum V. "Ask any Welsh player whether they want to play Wales and they tell you yes. I'm no different really.

"It's nice to represent for your country, especially in Wales.

"But I'm just focused on trying to help Bristol achieve their goal. I can't look too far ahead and it's just a case of keeping my head down I suppose."

It was in the summer of 2014 that Evans - a member of the 2008 and 2012 Wales Grand Slam teams - joined the Championship club when his move to Toulon collapsed after he had spent nine years with the Ospreys.

His first season with them was cut short when he ruptured his cruciate ligament against Plymouth Albion, leaving him as a spectator for the last-gasp play-off final defeat to Worcester.

"I was unfortunate not to play in the play-offs last year, and I sat down and watched the final - and that was probably the most gutting part for myself, not being involved in that," he said.

"I realised then how lucky the players were to be involved in an atmosphere like that.

"It was similar at home to Bedford in the semi-final the other week.

"The atmosphere was electrifying. When we finished our warmup and did the half-lap for the fans, you could just feel the atmosphere building from within the crowd. It was quite special to play in.

"Playing in that atmosphere did make it all seem worth it after the injury and the rehab - 12,000 Bristolians going mad. That was quite an experience for myself - and a very enjoyable one.

"This is my second season now - and, coming from Wales, a country which is passionate about rugby, I have seen that Bristol is a city that is just as intense as back home.

"These are obviously very big games and you understand what's at stake and what's needed, so I was desperate to get myself back in the fold so I could play in these games."

Having returned to action in February, Evans has made eight appearances and steadily got back up to speed, rolling back the years with his stand-out performance in Wednesday night's win over Doncaster at Castle Park.

"It was a rare Man of the Match, but I am feeling pretty good at the moment, especially coming back from a lengthy injury," he said.

"I'm steadily going towards where I want to be."

With the home leg to come and a 15 point lead, Bristol now look certs to return to the Premiership for the first time in 2009, although experienced makes Evans quick to strike a note of caution.

"We won't count our chickens until we actually achieve our goal," he said.

"The morale is pretty high at the minute, but we just re-focus now, get back into training and try and finish the job.

"Everybody within the squad has learned a lot from the previous two seasons and understands where we need to be and how to react. Everyone is standing up to the mark."

Evans is far from the only Welshman in the Bristol set-up, with former Ospreys boss Sean Holley the head coach and the likes of Gavin Henson, Matthew Morgan, Martin Roberts, Gareth Maule and Callum Sheedy all on the playing staff.

The 20-year-old Sheedy has stepped into the breach for the injured Henson at No 10 for the play-offs and shown up well, landing five shots at goal in the first leg win over Doncaster.

Born in Cardiff and a former pupil at the city's Corpus Christi High School, he hit the headlines last year when he pulled out of the Wales U20s squad.

Now he's hitting them again for positive reasons and earning the plaudits.

"His biggest game previous to the play-offs was when we played Moseley at home," said Evans.

"We were under the cosh a little bit and he stepped up to take a penalty to more or less win the game.

"He's never looked back since and his confidence has grown. He is quite a level headed boy to be fair to him.

"He's had a lot of stick for turning down Wales U20s, but I think it's just a career move for him really.

"If he keeps on putting performances in, then you never know what doors could open up for him."

And you never know what doors could re-open for Evans.

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Ian Evans on a charge against Doncaster last weekend
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 21, 2016
Words:958
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