x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Stevens' black comedy makes for great viewing

When Bath were submerged in crisis two years ago, gallows humour became a staple of daily life at the English Premiership club.

When Bath were submerged in crisis two years ago, gallows humour became a staple of daily life at the English Premiership club.

They lurched from one drugs scandal to the next, losing a raft of senior players as they went.

Amid the furore, the players did their best to raise a smile. They employed methods as unsubtle as announcing in match-day programmes that single players had become engaged, were about to become fathers, or simply borrowed each other's mobile phones and messaged the England manager to say they should be picked for the national team.

On the evidence of the early days of his rebirth at Saracens, the black comedy is still serving Matt Stevens well.

Stevens was the most high-profile victim of Bath's purge, as he was banned from all rugby for two years for cocaine abuse.

After keeping himself fit via Brazilian ju-jitsu, Stevens is now back playing rugby. And it is as if he has never been away. "It was like riding a bike," the prop said after making a try-scoring return for the Saracens second string this week. "Into a car."

Stevens is back on the bike. He has served his punishment and confronted his problems.

He says he would not presume to get a Saracens starting jersey at the moment.

But there is a World Cup to be played later this year and England are hardly over-endowed with top-class props. Martin Johnson will be watching his renaissance with particular interest.