England prop better off after 2-year cocaine ban

Former England prop Matt Stevens has said that his two-year ban for cocaine use was “the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Speaking exclusively to the BBC ahead of his return to rugby on Wednesday, Stevens said he was in “a lot better place”.

The South African born prop was banned for two years when he was playing for Bath and signed for Saracens almost a year ago but has not been able to play due to the ban.

The 28-year-old tested positive for cocaine following Bath’s Heineken Cup game against Glasgow in December 2008.

“It’s going to sound very odd but it’s probably the best thing that ever happened to me.” he told the BBC.

“That whole experience, getting banned, all led to where I am today and I’m genuinely a lot happier person and in a lot better place, so it’s a good thing.”

Stevens has kept himself in shape and will attend his first training session with Saracens on Wednesday and said: “It feels like Christmas Day – I packed my bag last week.”

“I’m pretty nervous. It’s amazing I’ll be able to play rugby again. “

“I’m a social animal and I really miss team training sessions. That sounds bizarre because when you play you can think of nothing worse than training – you really want to play.”

The Durban born prop said that the last two years had been a “rollercoaster ride” and a “humbling process”.

With the mindset I’ve got now I can only be in a better place to be a better player.”

Stevens surprised many when he decided to quit Bath but he defended his decision and said, “As an individual I really think the fresh start is something that I needed.

“Take nothing away from my time at Bath. I had a brilliant time and it’s such a special place to play.”

“But it was time to move on and Saracens is a really good place for me to do that.”

Stevens is hopeful of an England recall but says that right now he is focused on playing for Saracens.

The last of Stevens 32 England caps came in November 2008 against New Zealand’s All Blacks – a month before the ban.

While he has been out of the game he was watched Phil Vickery retire from rugby but also watched younger props like Leicester’s Dan Cole and Bath’s David Wilson come through the ranks.

“It is my goal to play for England again but I’ve been out for two years and I wouldn’t ever to want to come across as that guy who would assume he’s got what it takes to play,” he said.

“I’ve got to concentrate on playing well for Sarries and if that takes me to a point where I can play for England, that’s brilliant.”

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