It should have been a career highlight and a chance to write his name into the history books.
But as Welsh players bravely battled – ultimately in vein – against a talented Fiji side in the Hong Kong Sevens final earlier this year, 29-year-old Ifan Evans was 6,000 miles away facing life-changing surgery.
Evans had been on target to become his country’s leading try scorer in Sevens rugby as he closed in on Tal Selley’s record of 60 tries in the World Series.
He had narrowed the gap to just two tries and was targeting the March tournament when disaster struck in a routine training drill at his club.
“It was during a normal training session when I realised that something wasn’t right,” the winger said.
“It was a normal drill that we do week in week out.
“At the time I wasn’t in any pain but the next morning I woke up and my foot was numb.”
A physio at Cardiff RFC immediately withdrew Aberystwyth-born Ifan from the team’s Welsh Premiership clash due to take place that evening and sent him to see a specialist.
Just hours later the former Llandovery and Newport player’s life had been turned upside down as he learned he had a serious spinal injury.
“The doctor said I was incredibly lucky that the problem was spotted on the training field and not during a game,” he said.
“I was basically told that one hit to a certain part of my neck would have permanently paralysed me from the neck down. Playing for Cardiff that night could have put me in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.
“When someone tells you that you have a career ending injury it is devastating but when they put it like that it makes walking away from rugby a pretty easy decision.”
As Wales were making history by reaching their first ever World Sevens Series final before being controversially denied by Fiji 26-19 on March 24, Evans was watching events unfold back home, hours before surgery to have a decompression case fitted in his neck, aimed to alleviate the symptoms of his spinal cord injuries.
Evans admits it was a struggle to hold back the tears when the Welsh players sang the national anthem at the Hong Kong Stadium with “Ifan” written on their wrists.
“That was tough, I didn’t know they were going to do that so it took me by surprise,” he said. “I had tears in my eyes – that gesture meant everything to me.”
He added: “The operation basically stops symptoms getting worse but it does not guarantee an improvement either. In some cases the damaged nerve will begin to heal very quickly, in some cases after six months and sometimes never. It’s basically left me in a permanent state of pins and needles, in my hands, my legs and feet. It’s not painful but it is constant which is extremely annoying and weird.
“I can’t drive, I can’t go to the gym, run, ride a bike. For someone who exercised every day, to go from that to nothing at all just like that is killing me.”
The operation took place just two weeks after initial diagnosis and having been recovering for the past six weeks since surgery, Evans is only now beginning to contemplate what the future might hold.
“Everything happened very quickly and I’ve not really had time to adjust or take it all in,” he said. “My priority now is getting better.
“The doctors have warned that it could be three to six months before I start feeling myself, after that I’ll start thinking about what I want to do with my life. But the support from everyone in the game, friends, family, players, the WRU, it has been overwhelming.
“I cannot thank people enough.”