PONTYBEREM is a coal-mining village in the heart of rugby country in south-west Wales.
A short drive north from Llanelli, the home of Scarlets, it is a hard place forged by hard men.
Men like Randall Evans, who is grandfather of Newcastle and Combined Country reserve prop Dylan Evans.
The 24-year-old Wanderers tighthead will take on the might of the British and Irish Lions at Hunter Stadium tonight.
On the other side of the world, with his eyes fixed to the television, will be his proud grandfather.
He may even shed a tear.
‘‘I think the whole village is tuning in,’’ Dylan told the Herald before Combined Country’s final training session on Monday.
‘‘My granddad played juniors for Wales but his allegiance will be tested.
‘‘We have a pretty proud rugby heritage in our family, and I know he was rapt when he found out I was playing against the Lions.’’
A red-headed, raw-boned No.8, Randall Evans represented Wales youth in the early 1960s and played in the famed Scarlets jersey before work as a coalminer took him to South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, central Queensland and eventually Singleton.
Dylan’s father, Jon, was six when the family left Wales and had turned 15 by the time they arrived in Singleton – the final destination before Randall returned to Pontyberem almost 20 years ago.
Like father, like son, Jon was a schoolboy prodigy, representing Australia under-17 level before going on to become one of the hardest and most feared men in Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union.
A lock, he represented NSW Country, played a host of international touring teams, and was part of the all-conquering Singleton Bulls side that won three straight premierships from 1995 – the same team that produced Wallaby halfback Steve Merrick.
Now a general manager of a coal mine in Colombia, Jon made a rushed trip home, enduring 25 hours in the air, especially for tonight’s game.
‘‘As soon as I heard Dylan was in the team, I booked the tickets,’’ he said.
‘‘There was no way I was going to miss it.
‘‘It will be a special moment for the family.
‘‘I spoke to dad and he was extremely proud.
‘‘I’m absolutely sure he will shed a tear when Dylan runs out.’’
Randall’s Welsh jumper – blood stains on the collar standing out like badge of honour – is framed and sits proudly at the family’s Merewether home.
Beside it is Jon’s Australian under-17 jumper.
Though yet to reach national level, Dylan will tonight etch his own piece of family history.
‘‘It is like playing a Test match,’’ the 117kilogram 24-year-old said.
‘‘I’m excited to see what the pace of the game and the physicality is like compared to what I have played before.
‘‘I know it is going to be an enormous challenge. I’m just treating them as another red jumper. If I can hold my side [of the scrum] steady and even go forward, I will have done my job. Around the park I want to just hit the rucks and try to make as big an impact as possible.’’
Matching the Lions up front is the greatest challenge facing Combined Country – a team of amateurs and fringe Super Rugby players. None of the four props have Super Rugby experience.
Before returning to Newcastle and Wanderers this season, Evans was at Sydney University, had a short stint with the Brumby Runners academy and has played two campaigns with NSW Country.
It is similar story for fellow bookends Haydn Hirsimaki (Sunshine Coast Stingers), Tim Metcher (Southern Districts) and Rikki Abraham (Townsville).
‘‘We have done a little bit of work on making sure we are supporting them as an eight,’’ said Combined Country coach Cam Blades, a former Wallaby prop who played in a winning Australia A team against the Lions in 2001.
‘‘Yes, they are in the front line but they will have five blokes behind them who will be really launching in with them.
‘‘For a guy like Dylan, he has been in the Sydney Uni system, he has been in the Brumby Runners system, I’m expecting him to show those skills and I know he will give it a hell of a crack.’’
Evans, who is studying construction management at Newcastle University, has not given up on a professional career.
‘‘I’d love to go as far as I can – a Super 15 franchise or overseas,’’ he said.
‘‘I have been to Wales quite a lot. I love the place.
‘‘That is one thing I would love to do – go and play rugby over there and spend a bit of time with that side of the family.’’
There is a one household in Pontyberem that would welcome him with open arms.