Stevens' England return not guaranteed
August 15, 2010
Matt Stevens' England return is not guaranteed © Getty Images
Matt Stevens will not just walk back into the England squad upon the completion of his drugs ban, with manager Martin Johnson set to run a rigorous rule over his performances.
The former Bath prop, who has played 32 Tests, will finish a two-year suspension for taking cocaine in January and is set to rekindle his playing career with Aviva Premiership heavyweights Saracens.
Sarries boss Brendan Venter has already tipped Stevens for a Test recall but Johnson has insisted that he will have to earn it the hard way, by proving that he has both the form and character to contribute.
"He has got to learn how to play rugby again," he said. "He has got to do that and play. If anyone is playing well in the Premiership with English qualifications we will consider them.
"We have Dan Cole and David Wilson. We have got real quality front-row forwards and there is real competition. We have got competition - but if he is good enough we will look at him. Are we going to pick him on what's happened or whether he is good enough? If you have got a guy who has got an issue in a team - and I am not talking specifically about Matt - that is part of any selection."
Johnson has not been in contact with Stevens, but England scrummaging coach Graham Rowntree has been keeping tabs on the tight-head.
"He is fit, he has been doing a lot of wrestling but if he comes back playing well he has got to back it up week in, week out and then he comes into consideration," he said. "It is pointless speculating about how Matt Stevens comes back until he comes back and does it."
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton
Kiwi coaches can be found far and wide across the globe, and Murray Mexted believes the All Blacks benefit every bit as much as their rivals
Clermont, Toulon, player burnout, Sam Burgess and a farewell to Adams Park - Monday Maul looks back at the weekend's action
The latest Week in Pictures takes in some original ways of welcoming teams to the field and plenty of tries from the European Champions Cup