Matt Evans is under no illusions of the reputations he has to live up to as a Canadian playing his rugby in Wales.
Canadian great Gareth Rees made his mark playing in the Black and Amber of Newport RFC. John Tait and Dan Baugh became cult figures at the Arms Park. And of course Rod Snow became a legend at Rodney Parade.
Snow spent a decade in Newport making almost 200 appearances for the Black and Ambers and then a further 40 for the Newport Gwent Dragons with the introduction of regional rugby.
22-year-old Evans, said: “I’m aware of the impact Canadians have had in Wales. People like Rod Snow who was a bit of a legend here. They have set down a good benchmark for a young Canadian player. They earned the respect of the Welsh, who are some of the best critics out there. If I can achieve anything close to what they have that would be great.”
The Canadian international fullback, who could also have played for England or Wales, emigrated to Vancouver Island at 11-years-old but continued to play rugby at Cowichan RFC and Shawnigan Lake School. Evans went through the ranks at the English style boarding school and soon became involved with the Canadian set-up.
Evans then represented Canada at under-17, 19s, 20s and 21s, playing in three Junior World Cups, before making his senior debut against Ireland at Thomond Park on the Canucks 2008 European tour.
Amazingly Evans made his debut at just 20-years-old while still a student at Hartpury College. He has now completed his studies and the move to Rodney Parade is his first taste of professional rugby.
“I am very happy that the Dragons have given me this opportunity”, said Evans. “I feel I can be a great player for them and want to prove myself. By giving me a chance they have given not only me but also Canadian rugby a big opportunity.
“I am really enjoying it here. I was a bit apprehensive and nervous about it but it’s been good. One of the boys said it is like a working man’s team and I think they were right; it is very tight knit and there is a really good work ethic here.
“The coaching staff are great and it’s really enjoyable the way things are run. It’s nice being in a pro set-up. There’s just a great club atmosphere here, which really helps you settle in.
“I’d like to stake a claim and put my hand up as a valuable player for the squad. Obviously there are some injuries which make things a bit easier for me but I also want to learn from those guys, people like Martyn Thomas who is a great player.
“I want to prove myself. Apart from during the Autumn Tests I will be available all season, so I want to become a good clubman.
“I’d like to be in the 22 for the majority of the season. I am not an out and out fullback, I can cover other positions. If I am a guy used coming off the bench then that is fine. But if all goes well and I get selected at 15 then great.
“I am quite an attacking player, I like to bring a bit of pace to the game. I play rugby because I enjoy it; the more I touch the ball and help the team the better.
“The World Cup is also a huge goal for me, it would be a great honour and a great experience. I think if I can develop with the Dragons this year it will benefit my selection chances and if selected also the Canadian team.
“Since I have been involved in Canadian rugby it has developed a huge amount. It is difficult with the budget they have and it being such a vast country with guys also playing overseas. But the structure which has been put in by people like Geraint John and Keiran Crowley has really made a difference and it has started to pay off, you only have to look at our performance in the Churchill cup where we beat France but lost to the English Saxons in the final.
“I’m happy to be here and hopefully this works out for me. But I am under no illusions, this is a whole different level week in week out, it is a step up and I’m looking to put a marker down.”