Stevens relishing Twickenham return
May 27, 2011
Saracens and Leicester on this year's final%]
Saracens prop Matt Stevens is relishing the chance to run out against Leicester at Twickenham in Saturday's Aviva Premiership final, having completed an emotional comeback from a drugs ban that threatened to ruin his career.
The 28-year-old last played at the headquarters of English rugby in November 2008, just a month before his secret cocaine habit caused him to fail a drugs test after Bath's Heineken Cup meeting with Glasgow.
The tight-head was banned for two years, during which his perspective changed. Stevens now has twin daughters, Ava and Coco, with his fiancee India, whom he met 18 months ago.
Saracens have not lost since Stevens joined them in January and they head into tomorrow's final against Leicester on the back of a 12-match unbeaten run.
"I have thought a lot about what has happened over the last couple of weeks, as we went through the semi-finals and now into the final, and how different it has been," he said. "I have a really strong base for myself at home. My fiancee and my kids have been such an anchor in my preparations and so important to me that everything now means so much more.
"That is quite foreign to think about because it meant so much to me back then - but it means more to me now. I will always regret what happened. When people say they have no regrets, I don't know how that is possible but every day I am looking forward to playing rugby and looking forward to being with new family, all the amazing things I have in my life.
"Playing at Twickenham was never a novelty. It was always a special experience and one this Saracens team will hopefully hold in their memory for a long time. It's hugely exciting. It is what everyone has been working on for so long. When I was banned all I was thinking about was getting back to playing rugby.
"I would always have hoped for this to happen. We were very ambitious as a squad and aiming to be in the final. It was a whirlwind to start with but it has been great. I have been happy with the progression I have made. I definitely think there is a lot of improvements to be made but I think I am on course to make them."
In the early days of his ban, Stevens set his sights on playing for England again at the 2011 Rugby World Cup and he is on course to do so, having been recalled to the England Saxons squad for the Churchill Cup.
"Someone who has been out of international rugby for more than two years has to prove themselves. That is my obstacle," he said. "I have been told that what is in the past is in the past. I have done the time and they are looking at me with a fresh sheet, if you can do that.
"There is every chance I can be in the World Cup squad if I perform to the standard I know is in me. That is what I have got to do. The ball is in my court. I have just got to perform well."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures takes in all the action from the weekend when rugby united behind Samoa
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton
Wales were just 13 minutes from a famous victory, but the lessons to be learned in defeat are almost exactly the same as those from previous near-misses, writes Huw Richards
Ahead of England's clash with Samoa, Scrum Sevens takes a wander down memory lane and celebrates seven examples of Pacific Islands magic