England’s café-owning prop enjoys a coffee break with Bea Asprey…
RUGBY WORLD: How’s life back in the England squad?
Matt Stevens: Brilliant! Competitive, which is good. The training’s been hard but that’s what you expect before a World Cup.
RW: You haven’t lost a game since January…
MS: Don’t jinx it! It’s down to being in good teams at Saracens, and at the Churchill Cup. The Saxons came to my café in Bath, Jika Jika, for dinner. We had proper boys food, big fillet steak with dauphinoise potatoes and chocolate brownies for dessert.
RW: Who are the jokers with England?
MS: Definitely George Chuter and James Haskell. Paul Doran-Jones is a young upstart in that category as well.
RW: What couldn’t you live without?
MS: Coffee! Two cups a day max. It’s a fat-burner, and gets your metabolism going. It’s also full of antioxidants.
RW: Who’d you like to be stuck in a lift with?
MS: Keith Lemon (TV character), because he’s hilarious.
RW: If your house was on fire, what three things would you save?
MS: My two children, Ava and Coco, and my fiancée, India.
RW: What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen on the pitch?
MS: When I was at Bath, my pants got ripped off, and as we were in a driving maul, I couldn’t stop to pull them up. There’s a clip of me somewhere playing with no pants on!
RW: What are your nicknames?
MS: Sos. John Mallett was a prop at Bath when I arrived there. He was called Shep after the town of Shepton Mallet. He has rather a large head, and so do I, so I was called Son Of Shep!
RW: Any phobias?
MS: I wouldn’t like to be caught in a very tight and enclosed space.
RW: And bugbears?
MS: Bad coffee. I hate instant coffee. That’s how Jika Jika was born.
RW: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
MS: Flying. I’d fly on holiday. Of course I’d have to be able to carry my missus and children.
RW: What’s your idea of a dream holiday?
MS: Skiing, but I’m not allowed to go now. In my two years off I went skiing in Verbier and it was amazing. Energetic and invigorating with beautiful views.
RW: What’s your favourite cuisine?
MS: Any seafood. Italian seafood simply done… they have good crayfish and prawns in South Africa.
RW: What’s the silliest thing you’ve bought?
MS: An old Land Rover. I thought I was getting a good deal, but it was so old nothing worked!
RW: What’s your dream car?
MS: A Land Rover, a modern one! I’d love to do some off-road stuff.
RW: Any bad habits?
MS: Loads. Like biting my nails when I’m nervous or bored.
RW: Who have been your best and worst room-mates?
MS: My best was Lee Mears. He’s always got the latest technology and loads of movies, so you’re never bored. He’s my little geek. My worst was Steve Thompson, who snores like a bear!
RW: What three things would you take to a desert island?
MS: My guitar, a spear gun so I could shoot fish, and a coffee machine.
RW: How do you switch off from rugby?
MS: I listen to music and I love cooking. I do most of the cooking at home. Lots of simple stuff, like barbecues.
RW: Top three albums?
MS: Counting Crows’ August and Everything After, Adele’s 21, and Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run.
RW: What are your happiest and saddest memories?
MS: My happiest is the birth of my children. My saddest is my granddad dying when I was 17, in South Africa.
RW: What would you like to achieve outside of rugby?
MS: I’d love to build this business that I own, Jika Jika, with Lee. We want to open cafés all over the country. The next one will probably be in London.
This article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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