"It was an Honour" - Harlequins' Will Evans Wanted Siya Kolisi's Shirt After Champions Cup Win - Ruck

“It was an Honour” – Harlequins’ Will Evans Wanted Siya Kolisi’s Shirt After Champions Cup Win

Harlequins back row Will Evans lined up against Springboks captain Siya Kolisi last weekend, as Quins recorded a historic 31-28 victory over Racing 92. Evans had a strong performance at the La Defense Arena, as he went toe-to-toe with the two-time Rugby World Cup winning captain.

Despite enjoying the opportunity to battle against one of the world’s best back-rowers, Evans regretted not asking Kolisi for his jersey after the match. The 26-year-old spoke in today’s Harlequins media session, about the “pinch me” moment of taking on the iconic Springboks captain.

Siya Kolisi, Captain of South Africa during the Test Match between New Zealand and South Africa at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on August 25th 2023. – PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

“I was going to ask him for his shirt after the game, but I forgot, which is when I was in the shower after the game. So it’s a missed opportunity to have someone who has won the World Cup twice as captain and I’ve not even asked for his shirt. Yeah, it’s an honour to play against him to be honest, bit of a pinch me moment.

“The only time I ever felt like that was when I played against Dan Carter when he played for Racing as well. Those are the only two times I’ve really got that feeling. So, he’s clearly fantastic player and they have an icon in the rugby world.”

Will Evans of Harlequins goes over for a try and celebrates during the Gallagher Premiership match between Exeter Chiefs and Harlequins at Sandy Park on 4th June 2022. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

After winning his second Rugby World Cup in Paris, Kolisi remained in the French capital with his move to Racing 92. The South Africa star was not the only new arrival ahead of the 2023/24 Top 14 season, as speedster Henry Arundell also signed with the rather appropriately named Racing.

It was recently confirmed that Arundell has agreed a contract extension in Paris, which has written him out of the 2024 Six Nations and any immediate England contentions. The door could well re-open for the ex-London Irishmen down the line, but for now Arundell joins an extension list of ineligible England talents. Having just run out against Arundell, Evans was impressed by the 21-year-old’s decision to remain out in France, and opt to ply his trade away from the England squad.

Henry Arundell of England during the Summer Nations Series Match between England and Wales at Twickenham, London on 12 Aug 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

“Fair play to him. I like his decision, he’s taken his future into his own hands, which is what I think every player should should be doing. He played well, he stepped me, I barely even touched him at one point. He went past me like I wasn’t there. He’s clearly a fantastic player and knows exactly what he wants from his career and more power to him.”

After securing an immense away win against the Top 14 leaders, Harlequins are full of confidence ahead of this Sunday’s match at the Stoop. Quins welcome Toulouse to South West London, with the excitement palpable for his high octane match-up. Evans is ready for the threat that the star-studded Stade Toulousain will bring, but backs his side to match them every step of the way.

“All 14 of them (Top 14 sides) are really, really strong. So, they have a bigger budget than a lot of the Premiership sides. As I said, last weekend, we showed that we can beat the very best of them. So, it doesn’t really matter who we come up against, especially at home. We feel like we’re a real force, doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We’ll rock up at the Stoop and try to get five points.”

“It’s like such a big occasion (playing Racing 92), even before the game, we felt we had good form going into the game, we felt like we probably might get something. That’s only grown the belief this week, that doesn’t matter who rocks up, we’re going to put out a good performance and probably be on the right side of the result. So it’s a very pleasing, enjoyable place to be at about.”

Will Evans of Harlequins breaks through the tackle of Stu Townsend of Exeter Chiefs during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Exeter Chiefs and Harlequins at Sandy Park on 25th September 2022. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

The famous quarters of Harlequins are certainly flying high, with the Premiership’s resident entertainers providing thrilling contests each week in the English first division. Currently sat at third in the Premiership one point adrift of the league leading Sale Sharks, Quins have a real spring in their step ahead of Sunday’s ‘classique’ with Toulouse. Evans discussed the heightened buzz around the Stoop, with the excitement only recently faltering against their noisy London neighbours.

“Yeah, that Saracens one really was a bit of an anomaly. Just because the 10 games we played, that’s the game where we’re not really showing up. We’re high on confidence because we played nine really solid games. We’re one point off top of the league and we’ve just won our first game in Europe. So loads of confidence.”

Tom Parton of Saracens during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Match between Harlequins and Saracens at Twickenham Stoop, London on 18th November 2023. Photo: Frankie OKeeffe/PPAUK

Another Harlequins player who had a starring performance against Racing 92 was Alex Dombrandt. Despite the frustration of missing out on the England squad for the Rugby World Cup, Dombrandt has been steadily progressing back to his very best, and showcased his talents with a stunning breakaway try in Paris. The number eight has been bestowed an extended run with the Quins captaincy due to the injury absence of Stephan Lewies, who has been out of action since the Premiership Rugby Cup defeat to Gloucester back in September.

Lewies also spent a predominant chunk of the 2022/23 season on the injury shelf, with Evans praising Dombrandt’s confidence to step up to the mark, and lead the Quins out in the Premiership and Champions Cup.

Alex Dombrandt of England during the Summer Nations Series Rugby match between Wales and England at Principality Stadium on August 5, 2023 in Cardiff, Wales. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

“There was a lot last year where Stephen was out injured, and Alex had to grow into the role. He’s really taken it to a new level this year. Especially with the England lads being away and him being in that environment for so long. He’s come in having not gone to the World Cup, unfortunately for him, but he’s grown so much into that role, and he’s really taken it by the scruff of the neck.

“He really has become, even though he’s still a young lad, he’s really taking charge of it and become a massive senior player for us.”