Stevens delighted to be back in action
January 27, 2007

Matt Stevens' reward for lasting a full 80 minutes in his first game for 10 months will be a few days in the South African sun.

Stevens made a winning return to action today as Bath collected a bonus point victory with a 31-23 success over Harlequins at the Recreation Ground.

The drawback of his trip is that he will be accompanied by his club's head fitness coach, who will put him through his paces in an effort to ensure the England prop is back up to full speed as soon as possible.

Stevens said: ``I was dead on my feet but it's great to be back. The club has decided that I will benefit from the trip and a bit of sunshine. It's a chance to build on the match fitness.''

Asked if he was thinking about an early return to the England squad, he said: ``I wouldn't contemplate me being in the squad - at the moment I'm not fit enough. I'd love to be back and involved but I wouldn't pick me on this performance.

``Personally, it was good to get a hit-out. Our coach Steve Meehan spoke to me before the game and told me just to go out and do the basics and not to worry about being as good as I want to be.''

Meehan was certainly impressed by Stevens' comeback performance after surgery which involved reconstruction of his right shoulder.

He said: ``From a strength point of view, he was fine. He coped with the collisions although the match fitness is not there but I was impressed with his basic understanding of how we want to play.

``If he is going to figure in the England squad for the Six Nations, it will be in the latter part.''

On Bath's bonus-point victory, which eases their worries about being involved in a relegation battle, Meehan said: ``It was nice that we were solid up front. It gave us a foundation as everyone could see in the first 40 minutes. That's the rugby we've been trying to play.''

Harlequins director of rugby Dean Richards was disappointed that his side did not earn even a losing bonus point, saying: ``There's a huge amount of potential in the side and perhaps we could have come away with something. Bath deserved to win but it was disappointing to get nothing.

``I was pleased that the guys kept at it. We did allow the ref to get to us but, once we put that to one side, we began to play some rugby.''

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