Lancaster: Stevens shone
Saracens prop "ticks the box" for Saxons coach
Last Updated: June 20, 2011 7:27am
Stevens: Impressed on his return to action
Saxons boss Stuart Lancaster believes prop Matt Stevens has proved he is worthy of a place in England's preliminary World Cup squad.
Stevens may have only returned to the game in January after serving a two-year ban for testing positive for cocaine, but he has turned in a string of impressive performances.
And having helped Saracens win their first Aviva Premiership title, Stevens then played a key role as the Saxons retained Churchill Cup.
Stevens played in all three games and was particularly impressive as the England pack destroyed Tonga.
These performances should see Stevens welcomed back into the international fold on Monday when England boss Martin Johnson confirms his initial 45-man training squad.
And the former Bath prop has already got Lancaster's vote of confidence.
"From my point of view, Matt has been outstanding."
Stuart Lancaster Quotes of the week
"From my point of view, Matt has been outstanding," said Lancaster.
"He came in, added an experienced voice and played three lots of 80 minutes on the bounce in the tournament.
"He has been great off the field, and on the field he has delivered for me and the other coaches. It's a tick for me in the box."
Despite the backing of Lancaster, and having won 32 caps, Stevens is taking nothing for granted.
"Because I've played for England before, I know exactly the honour and esteem that goes with it," he said.
"I am very keen. I will work as hard as I can and see what happens.
"It has been a tough five months, but it is just week on week for me now.
"What I've said to myself throughout this whole tournament has been about performance, and I am happy with the way I have performed.
"There is a lot of room for improvement, I know that, but I am happy with the way things are going."
Stevens is likely to be joined in the squad by team-mates Brad Barritt and lock Mouritz Botha, while Manu Tuilagi could well be given his chance after completing a suspension next Thursday for punching England wing Chris Ashton.
Exeter's Tom Johnson, Leicester's Billy Twelvetrees, Saracens full-back Alex Goode and Worcester wing Miles Benjamin are among those that are hoping their displays for the Saxons have helped their causes.