Clean slate but fresh competition for Stevens

Former Lions prop Matt Stevens has been told he will be given a clean slate by the England management when he returns to action in January. [more]

Clean slate but fresh competition for Stevens

Former Lions prop Matt Stevens has been told he will be given a clean slate by the England management when he returns to action in January.

The 2005 tourist has been serving a two-year ban after admitting to taking cocaine during his time with Bath but will be free to play again halfway through the new season.

Stevens has already signed for Saracens and has admitted he would love to reignite his England career sooner rather than later.

And England team manager Martin Johnson has refused to rule that scenario out, stating that the 27-year-old will be judged on his performances from January onwards rather than on his past misdemeanors.

"Anyone with an England qualification who does well in the Premiership will be watched," said Johnson.

Google Ad Manager – In Article

"Matt has got to play. You do not know how two years out of the game will affect him: it may have a positive impact on him mentally and physically.

"Part of selection is how the group reacts but do you rule on him based on what has happened or what he is?"

But while Johnson said he would have no qualms in picking the South-African born tight-head, he did warn that breaking back into the side might not be as easy as Stevens first found before his suspension.

Leicester’s Dan Cole, Bath’s David Wilson and Gloucester’s Paul Doran-Jones have worn England colours during Stevens’ absence and are all 25 or under, leaving Stevens with an uphill challenge to claw his way into the 2011 World Cup squad.

"He has got to learn how to play rugby again but if he is good enough we will look at him," added Johnson.

"Three young tight-heads have come through since Matt started his ban, and the more the better."

Fellow Lions prop Graham Rowntree, who is now England’s scrummaging coach having been a Lions team-mate of Stevens five years ago, has reiterated Johnson’s sentiments, claiming that Stevens will be on England’s radar but that he won’t be an automatic pick.

"I have been to his coffee house after watching Bath," said Rowntree.

"He is fit, having done a lot of wrestling, but it is pointless speculating about how he will come back.

"He will have to back up performances week in, week out; only then will he come into consideration, and he has some competition now."

Previous story Shane plans World Cup hoorah
Next story Fitzgerald set for return
Download