British and Irish Lions 2013: Matt Stevens targeting starting place on tour
The Saracens prop was one of the surprise inclusions in the squad
Friday 17 May 2013
Matt Stevens has acknowledged the qualities of British and Irish Lions rival Adam Jones, but has no intention of making up the numbers in Hong Kong and Australia.
Saracens prop Stevens was one of the surprise inclusions in head coach Warren Gatland's 37-man squad, having retired from international duty with 44 caps to his name in August 2012.
But his form in helping Saracens reach the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup and Aviva Premiership meant he was always on Gatland's radar, and he is now preparing for his second Lions tour, having been part of the trip to New Zealand in 2005.
Stevens, now 30, featured in six games on that tour, but was not involved in any of the three Tests as the Lions slumped to a 3-0 series defeat.
If he is to break his Lions Test duck Down Under, former Bath tighthead Stevens will need to prove his worth ahead of Welsh scrum anchor Jones, and England's Dan Cole.
Ospreys stalwart Jones will start the tour as the favourite for the Test number three shirt after ending the Six Nations in barnstorming fashion, particularly his demolition of the England scrum in the title decider.
Stevens is an admirer of Jones, but has promised him a hard battle for the honour to pack down against the Wallabies in Brisbane on June 22.
"I have a lot of respect for Adam, I have played against him for the last 10 years. He is a superb player and he has a lot of good things most props want.," he said.
"He has a lot to his game, I respect him and he is a good bloke which is half the battle in rugby.
"But, of course, I am not going out there to me up the numbers, we are all competitive animals otherwise we wouldn't be here. We all want to be starting and that can only be good for the tour in the long term."
However, despite being back among the international elite, Stevens is not planning to reverse his decision to stand down from England duty.
"I am not thinking about that, it is just about this tour and I am relishing every minute of it," said Stevens.
"Any international player when they retire has second thoughts and it was the most difficult rugby decision I have ever made.
"But it was the right choice at the time, obviously it has given me the chance to play week in, week out for Saracens and has got me in contention for this trip.
"It has been difficult but I didn't retire because I didn't think I was good enough, I retired because there were other things I needed to sort out to get back playing for Saracens.
"I had just come back from injury and it wasn't fair on me playing a bit part for Stuart (Lancaster) when I thought I wasn't going to be there for the World Cup in 2015."
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