Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 December 2014

England now keeping watch on Ulster reject Steenson’s progress

Exeter Chiefs’ Ulster born and bred stand-off Gareth Steenson has been told that he is on England’s radar.

Having played in England since 2006, the 26-year-old former Queen’s and Dungannon fly-half now qualifies under the game’s residency rules.

Despite having represented Ireland at under-19 and under-21 levels, Steenson never got a senior game for his native province.

Advised by then-coach Matt Williams that he did not have a future with Ulster, Steenson departed for Rotherham, duly joined the Cornish Pirates and then was snapped up by Exeter.

Last season he was pivotal to the Chiefs’ achievement in gaining promotion to the top flight of English club rugby for the first time in their history.

Nor did the upgrade to the Aviva Premiership faze the Ulsterman; he scored 69 points in the newcomers’ first six Premiership games before a knee injury sidelined him in October.

Last weekend, following eight long, hard weeks in the gym and weights room, he made his eagerly-awaited comeback in Exeter's 22-15 home defeat by Leicester, replacing Ryan Davis for the final nine minutes dur

ing which he kicked a penalty to herald his return.

Yet incredibly, despite impressing in the Premiership, Ireland appear to have forgotten all about him since his move across the pond. England, however, have been more attentive.

“It doesn’t mean I’m going to be playing for England but it’s nice to get a wee bit of recognition and to have been told that they’re aware of you.

“I have never spoken to Declan Kidney or anyone involved with the Irish set-up,” he said.

“In rugby you never know what might happen and I could have a choice to make further down the line.”

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