Rugby - Singing, scrummaging Stevens revels in Lions role

Former England prop Matt Stevens was as surprised as anyone at being named in the British and Irish Lions squad to tour Australia on Tuesday, capping a rollercoaster career that has included singing, scrapping, drug bans and World Cups.

Rugby - Singing, scrummaging Stevens revels in Lions role

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Matt Stevens

The 30-year-old was expected to be included in the last Lions tour to South Africa four years ago but his career looked over after he was given a two-year ban in early 2009 when he tested positive for cocaine after a match for English club Bath.

Out of work during his suspension, South Africa-born Stevens worked in a coffee shop, part of a new business with old team mate Lee Mears, and also took up the Brazilian martial art of jiu-jitsu, competing in the world championships in America.

After 'getting his arse handed to him' at the highest level of jiu-jitsu, Stevens returned to his first love and joined Saracens on the conclusion of his ban.

His displays helped him regain a spot in the England squad but he struggled to maintain a starting place with the last of his 44 caps coming against Ireland in the 2012 Six Nations.

He quit the international fold in August, happy with his lot having played in two World Cups and in the 2005 Lions tour to New Zealand, but on Tuesday he was back revelling at achieving the pinnacle for a rugby player from the home nations.

"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," Stevens was quoted as saying by British media.

"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."

Stevens' versatility - he can play loosehead and tighthead prop - is thought to have earned his selection by Lions coach Warren Gatland over Ireland's Mike Ross or Scot Euan Murray.

All are talented enough to start the first test against the Wallabies in Brisbane on June 22, but with a seven week, 10 match tour with plenty of travel, personalities are often as important as power.

Stevens' charisma shined through when he finished runner up on British television singing show 'X Factor' in 2006, winning over fans with his crooning abilities as he raised 125,000 pounds ($194,500) for the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.

The television exposure and adoration brought about a tinge of arrogance, though, but after the humbling drugs ban his feet are firmly on the floor.

"It made me slightly more considered and reserved about certain situations," the prop said just prior to his return to the game.

"I think I have got a bit more humility about me now."

Stevens had not been mentioned as a possible candidate to take part in the tour prior to Tuesday's announcement with many instead tipping former England international Jonny Wilkinson as a necessary inclusion.

The flyhalf, however, turned down the opportunity to take part in the magical tour, which has survived the sport's move to professionalism. Stevens, though, had no such qualms.

"I didn't expect the chance to play international rugby again," he said on Tuesday.

"I decided not to represent England. I had my reasons and it was the most difficult decision I've ever had to make as a player, but this is a one-off experience that you just can't turn down."

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