Revitalised Stevens ready for Scotland
September 27, 2011
Matt Stevens is set to return for England against Scotland at the weekend © Getty Images
England prop Matt Stevens is determined to stay on the right side of the law after recovering from an ankle injury in time to face Scotland in Saturday's decisive Rugby World Cup showdown.
The versatile Stevens, who is focusing on the less familiar role of loose-head prop following Andrew Sheridan's tournament-ending injury, was penalised heavily in England's victory over Georgia. Stevens then missed the ten-try rout of Romania with a minor ankle sprain - but is ready to resume the loosehead duties from Alex Corbisiero if called upon for the Scotland clash.
And the Saracens prop vowed there would be no repeat of the binding issues which saw him fall foul of referee Jonathan Kaplan against the Georgians.
"I stick my hand up," said Stevens. "Our intention as an England pack is to always go forward in the scrum, if we get the hit. At loose-head it is important to get a quick early bind and hold that grip.
"Sometimes with the force coming through the packs you miss the jersey or it's a tight jersey and you can't get that bind. But that is up to me to sort out. That's what I'm doing and I've been working on that a lot in the last two weeks."
Stevens has played most of his rugby at his preferred position of tight-head prop but the dynamics changed in the England squad after Sheridan returned home with a shoulder injury.
"I think there is definitely more of a focus for me on loose-head," he said. "Alex Corbisiero showed last week that he is a great player at loose-head, Dan Cole is doing really well at tight-head and Davey Wilson did well when he came on.
"We've basically got two international front rows so we're happy with where we are. We're pretty happy with the way we've been scrummaging. Scotland are quick across the mark and they scrummed really well against Georgia. They are going to be a tough outfit. "As long as I can keep my bind up, we will be fine."
England manager Martin Johnson will confirm his side in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Stevens only returned to rugby in January after serving a two-year ban for cocaine and he is now a father to twin girls - all of which makes England's run to the 2007 World Cup final seem like a lifetime ago.
"Experience and maturity are big things," he said. "It's very different. I am a Dad now and I feel a lot older!
"I definitely feel a lot more grounded now, I know what I want and I am happy with how things are going at the moment. I've said countless times that it was a very good experience in hindsight to have those two years off to reflect on what is important to me and I am definitely a better person for it."
England's clash with Scotland effectively sees the knockout stages of the World Cup start a week early. Neither team has ever failed to reach a World Cup quarter-final - but the trapdoor is creaking after Argentina's 13-12 victory over Scotland.
If England win, they go through. Scotland have to win by at least eight points - a feat they have not achieved for 25 years - to stand any chance of qualifying for the last eight.
"It's going to be a tough game. Scotland have their backs against the wall and will want to come out fighting," said Stevens. "We've got to take that next step up with our physicality and our discipline, and we've been working hard at that."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Top 14, Super Rugby and the Aviva Premiership with fireworks and monsters both featuring
Firdose Moonda looks at the moves towards greater integration within South African rugby ... and what the future holds
It is 100 years this week since the last international match played in Europe before the outbreak of World War One. Rewind remembers the fixture's longest-living survivor
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14