Matt Stevens, the disgraced prop, said yesterday he is targeting a place in England's 2011 Rugby World Cup squad once his suspension is up. Stevens, 27, received a two-year ban after testing positive for cocaine following Bath's Heineken Cup match against Glasgow back in December 2008. He subsequently quit the club but announced in January he will join fellow Guinness Premiership club Saracens when his suspension ends in January next year.
And, despite the fact that would give him little time to play himself into England's Six Nations team in 2011, he thinks a place in the World Cup squad, which leaves for New Zealand in September next year, is a realistic possibility. "For my own sanity that has got to be the goal," he said. "I'd like to play in the next World Cup but obviously there's a lot against me. But I'll be prepared and hopefully with the training I'm doing right now I will be in a position that I will be in the best shape of my life, so I'm going to give it every chance I can."
Stevens is not allowed to practice with Saracens, so is in full training by himself and does jiu-jitsu three times a week. "I've taken on a strength and conditioning trainer and I've also been working with a wrestling coach. I've been doing a lot of work with a guy who's a world champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu," he told the BBC. "I'd like to think I'd be fully fit to go [when the ban ends]. I'd like to be able to be up for selection as soon as possible. I'd hope that as soon as I hit the ground I'll be in a Saracens shirt."
Stevens has been watching England's struggles in the Six Nations, in which they have lost to Ireland and drew with Scotland at Murryfield on Saturday to leave serious question marks over how the team is progressing under Martin Johnson's charge. "I was disappointed. I thought the boys would play with a bit more dynamism," he added. "The calibre of the individuals in that team really should have shone through but there's a lot of work to do and you've just got to keep supporting them."
Meanwhile, Ugo Monye, the England winger, suffered no significant neck damage after being injured making a tackle in yesterday's 15-15 draw and was discharged from hospital last night. * With agencies