Matt Stevens has spoken of the ‘special moment’ when he found out that he had been selected for the British and Irish Lions squad for the tour to Australia next month.
Prop Stevens was sat on a train with his wife when he found out the news via twitter and he admitted the news hasn’t really sunk in yet.
“It’s a huge honour to have been picked, a real privilege; all the adjectives in the dictionary couldn’t really explain how I feel,” he said.
“I was on the train to Bath sat next to my wife when I found out, so it was a very special moment. I was watching twitter as I’m sure a lot of people were, feeling very nervous as the squad was named and when I first saw my name I suppose my first reaction was one of shock. It still hasn’t really sunk in yet.
“I didn’t necessarily expect to get picked. I didn’t get any inkling that I would be included so I’m sure no one knew that they were picked until their names were read out.”
After retiring from international rugby with England last summer, few expected Stevens to be part of the Lions squad but a year of impressive performances for Saracens in the set-piece and loose has earned him a seat on the plane alongside team mates Mako Vunipola and Owen Farrell.
He added: “I think it’s testament to the team here at Saracens that I’ve been included, and I have to thank a special group of people for that, the players, the coaches, the medical and backroom staff and the fans who have all helped.
“I have worked hard this year but it’s been a collective effort throughout.
“I didn’t expect the chance to play international rugby again to be truthful. I obviously decided not to represent England; I had my reasons and it was the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make as a rugby player, but this is a one off experience that you just can’t turn down.
“It’s such a huge honour and privilege to play for the British and Irish Lions I just couldn’t refuse the chance to do so.”
Stevens toured with the Lions to New Zealand in 2005 and he can’t wait to experience the unique atmosphere once again.
“I’ve been on tour before and I know how amazing it can be. Lions tours are so special; it doesn’t really make much sense but it just comes together in a magical way. You have that mutual respect for each other; players you have played against or alongside, players of real calibre are thrown together and with very little time. It’s a very special experience.
“It’s great that Owen and Mako have been included. Speaking as a front rower, Mako is a very special player; he makes all us props look pedestrian with his ability with ball in hand and his footwork.
“I remember my first tour in 2005, all us young players were sponges; taking in as much as we could from some fantastic players and professionals, so I’m sure Mako will be the same. He deserves his chance.”