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Stevens enjoying second chance

Saracens switch has revitalised England prop

Last updated: 3rd April 2011   Subscribe to RSS Feed

Stevens enjoying second chance

Stevens: on comeback trail

The focus at Saracens is on the individuals and their families. It's not just about what happens on the park and that has made it easy to stay focused and be healthy.

Matt Stevens
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Saracens prop Matt Stevens starred in victory over his former team Bath and said the change of environment has helped him flourish once again.

Stevens continued his rehabilitation since completing a two-year ban issued for testing positive for cocaine with a man-of-the-match display in Sarries' 20-9 Aviva Premiership success.

It was the 28-year-old's eighth appearance since his suspension ended in January and first against the club he left in the wake of the scandal.

"My decision to come to Saracens was because as an individual I needed to make a change," said Stevens, who heads to Miami on Monday for a team training camp organised by the club.

"I chose Saracens because of the culture of the club and I knew a lot of the players here.

Nervous

"It was a logical decision for me and they've been really supportive of my situation coming back into the game.

"I'm more nervous before playing now than before because I've always got something to prove now.

"I came into Saracens with everything sorted out. Week on week it's something I keep an eye on and I'm in a very stable environment.

"The focus at Saracens is on the individuals and their families.

"It's not just about what happens on the park and that has made it easy to stay focused and be healthy.

"I feel like a 20-year-old who's just started the game."

Saracens tightened their grip on second place with a seventh successive league victory that keeps them on course for home advantage in the play-offs.

Stevens' ambition is to win back his England place in time for the World Cup and he knows playing in a Premiership final can only improve his chances of figuring in Martin Johnson's plans.

"There's still quite a way for me to go to break into what is quite a good, developing England team," he said.

"But helping Saracens into the Premiership final would be a great platform for me to do that.

"If you play in a Premiership final then you're pushing for a place with England.

"Johnno's said he's watching me and my progress and that's all I can ask for."

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall is convinced Stevens will be included in England's squad for New Zealand this autumn.

"To have been out for that length of time and reach the level he has so soon is a big achievement," said McCall.

"He's still not quite there, Matt knows that, but the more he plays the better he'll get and he's had a couple of starts in a row now.

"I think the World Cup is a realistic ambition for him. His adaptability and flexibility to play both sides is a big feather in his cap.

"He's an outstanding player with a big contribution around the pitch. I'd be very surprised if he's not there."

Five penalties from Alex Goode and a first-half try from David Strettle banged a nail into the coffin of Bath's play-off hopes.

Motivation

Even with games in hand on most of their rivals it is highly unlikely they will force their way into the top four, though head coach Steve Meehan refuses to throw in the towel.

"We've got 25 points left to play for and our objective must be to win as many as we can," he said.

"That's all we can do and we'll see what happens in other fixtures."

On Stevens, Meehan added: "I was surprised he was man-of-the-match.

"He's still a little bit raw and has got some work to do. He's just returning into the game. We'll see what happens over time."

Meanwhile, Saracens expect to make an announcement soon over the identity of their home ground for the start of next season.

Chief executive Edward Griffiths is confident their new ground at Copthall will be ready in January with Vicarage Road, their current base, among the options to fill the interim period.

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