SARACENS prop Matt Stevens is set to be rewarded for his influential performances in the Saxons’ Churchill Cup winning campaign by being named in England’s 45-man World Cup training squad today.
Stevens (right), who won the last of his 32 England caps in November 2008, was outstanding as the Saxons claimed the Churchill Cup for a sixth time in nine seasons with a 37-6 victory over Canada at Worcester.
Confirmation of the 28-year-old’s return to the senior international fold will signify the completion of a remarkable comeback following the two-year ban he received after testing positive for cocaine in 2009, and the South African-born front-rower is relishing his return.
“Because I’ve played for England before, I know exactly the honour and esteem that goes with it,” said Stevens who has yet to taste defeat since returning to the professional game at the end of January.
“I am very keen. I will work as hard as I can and see what happens. It has been a tough five months, but it is just week on week for me now.
“What I’ve said to myself throughout this whole tournament has been about performance, and I am happy with the way I have performed.
“There is a lot of room for improvement, I know that, but I am happy with the way things are going.”
Saxons head coach Stuart Lancaster, whose side racked up 165 points and 23 tries in three games, meanwhile, has no doubt about the impact Stevens made throughout the course of the tournament.
“From my point of view, Matt has been outstanding,” said Lancaster.
“He has been great off the field, and on the field he has delivered for me and the other coaches.”
MATT STEVENS | CAREER TIMELINE
Oct 1982: Born in Durban, South Africa
Sep 2002: Joins Bath
Jul 2003: Selected for England’s summer tour to Australia and New Zealand
Jul 2003: Wins first cap against New Zealand as a substitute
May 2005: Named in British and Irish Lions squad for tour of New Zealand
Feb 2006: Injures shoulder in Six Nations which kept him out of the game for nearly a year
Jun 2007: Returns to England duty for summer tour of South Africa
Sep 2007: Features in all of England’s World Cup matches en route to the final defeat against South Africa
Jan 2008: Signs new four-year deal with Bath
Jan 2009: Fails drugs test and banned for two years
Mar 2009: Sacked by Bath
Jan 2010: Announced he would sign for Saracens upon completion of ban
May 2011: Helps Saracens clinch the Premiership title