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Johnson - Stevens has tough task

Martin Johnson warned Matt Stevens he will have a fight on his hands to force his way into England's 2011 Rugby World Cup plans.

Stevens, 28, is set to join Saracens when his two-year cocaine ban expires in January and new boss Brendan Venter has already tipped him for an international recall. However, Johnson insisted Stevens will not only have to prove he still has the quality - but also the character to be part of the England set-up again.

England boss Johnson said: "He has got to learn how to play rugby again. He has got to do that and play. If anyone is playing well in the Premiership with English qualifications we will consider them."

He added: "We have Dan Cole and David Wilson. We have got real quality front-row forwards and there is real competition. We have got competition - but if he is good enough we will look at him."

Johnson was fiercely critical of Stevens after he admitted taking cocaine, claiming the former Bath prop had tarnished the reputation of the sport.

The two have not spoken since, although Stevens has been in touch with England's scrum coach Graham Rowntree.

Johnson continued: "Are we going to pick him on what's happened or whether he is good enough?

"If you have got a guy who has got an issue in a team - and I am not talking specifically about Matt - that is part of any selection."


From Belfast Telegraph