- Matt Stevens reflects on 2007 tournament in France
- Playing in a World Cup is like nothing else – Stevens
As comebacks go, Saracens prop Matt Stevens could not have wished for much more. 19 games, 19 wins, an Aviva Premiership winner’s medal, a Churchill Cup winner’s medal and a call up to the England Senior side.
But the versatile, 28-year-old front-rower must wait a few more weeks to discover if he will complete his dream return with a seat on the plane to New Zealand.
After spending two years banned from the game, Stevens has slotted back into rugby as if he had never been away. And with the experience of representing England at the 2007 Rugby World Cup, the former British & Irish Lion knows exactly what it takes to succeed.
"Playing in a World Cup is like nothing else," he said. "There is a lot of prestige surrounding the tournament and getting through to the final in '07 was incredible, particularly as we were written off early on."
Photo: Getty Images
That 'write-off' came after Brian Ashton’s England were swept aside by a ruthless South Africa in the opening game of the competition.
But England hit back, beating Tonga, USA and Samoa in the group stages, before nudging past Australia in the quarters and upsetting hosts France in the semis to set up Round 2 against a Bryan Habana inspired South Africa.
The Springboks produced an accomplished performance against Stevens' England to win their second World Cup, but the former Bath forward learnt a lot from that precious experience, adding: "It's about attrition, it's about backs against the walls rugby. We're brothers fighting for each other, fighting to make that tackle or make that extra yard – that all plays a massive part. That's the culture of World Cup rugby."