Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby loosie Gareth Evans had a game of golf with his teammate Brad Weber and mother Jenny Evans yesterday.
"I came a distant third. Brad won with a round of 86 ... I just couldn't focus," Evans said as he reflected on the trio's 18 holes at the Hastings Golf Club's Bridge Pa course.
Just minutes before they teed off Evans, 27, had received an email informing him of his selection in an All Blacks wider squad of 19 players to prepare for a November 3 test against Japan in Tokyo.
"I hadn't long finished training with the Magpies. I had heard a few rumours earlier in the day but nothing official until that email," Evans recalled.
"It's not the full squad but it's a good opportunity to dip my toes in and do some learning," Evans said.
He produced outstanding form for the Hurricanes at No 8 during the Super Rugby season and has impressed in this role as well as at openside flanker for the Magpies this season. Evans hasn't heard which position the ABs selectors want to use him in.
"There are a few injuries around the 7 area. But there is also plenty of healthy competition all across the board when it comes to the loosies ... I'm just excited about the week of learning I'm going to have."
Evans pointed out his oldest brother, United Kingdom-based Bryn, a two-test All Black in 2009, was among the first to congratulate him yesterday.
"Bryn stayed up until 1am to hear the announcement. He was fizzing about it and told me to take every opportunity I get and to learn everything I can."
A former Highlanders and Otago player, Evans, admitted there have been times when he thought All Black selection would never come.
"I'm 27 now and everyone else who gets the nod are so much younger. During the last four years I've missed a lot of Mitre 10 Cup rugby with injuries and I've been through some dark days. They have been a bit of a thorn in my backside."
He was referring to the fact he had one game for the Magpies in 2015, none in 2016 and two last year.
"It's been a bit of a struggle but I'm lucky I've had the support around me," Evans said.
He missed the Magpies last outing against Tasman with a foot injury but will be fit for their Championship semifinal against Otago in Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night.
"It's back down to the old stomping ground again. They are a good side ... it's going to be a tough battle," he added.
Magpies head coach Mark Ozich was thrilled with Evans selection.
"It's really good news for him and the province, outstanding for him. It shows the younger players coming through our systems that you can still make the All Blacks from the smaller unions," Ozich said.
Havelock North Rugby Club president Conrad Waitoa was "over the moon" for Evans.
"Gareth played all of his junior rugby for us and when he went away to university in 2010 he would come back and play for us in the holidays. I also remember when he was a Year 12 student at Napier Boys' High School and he came and and played for us at the Mount Maunganui Sevens. He was always keen to play for the villagers whenever he could," Waitoa said.
"Because of his Super Rugby commitments this year he only had a couple of games for our prems but he was still among the first to turn up at our prizegiving. I told him yesterday it's great that he has been selected and the next step is to earn a test cap," Waitoa added.
Should that happen it will mean four Havelock North club players have played for the ABs since the turn of the century. In addition to Bryn Evans former Magpies halfback Danny Lee and hooker Hika Elliot all made the national team while a member of the Havelock North club.