Phil Vickery may have lost the England captaincy but his passion for the red rose burns as fiercely as ever.
The 32-year-old tight-head prop has been recalled to the England side for Saturday’s Cook Cup clash with old enemy Australia.
And Vickery vowed to hit the Wallabies scrum “with everything I’ve got” as England target their first big scalp under Martin Johnson.
“I’ve got an opportunity this weekend and I am as passionate, enthusiastic and excited about playing for England as I have ever been,” he said.
“I am certainly going to go out this weekend and give it everything I’ve got.”
Vickery captained England to the 2007 World Cup final but missed the summer tour to New Zealand with a knee injury.
Steve Borthwick stood in as captain for the trip and was appointed on a permanent basis when England came into camp ahead of the autumn international series.
Vickery was naturally disappointed - but he insisted it has only served as “fuel for the fire” because all he wants is to be part of a successful England team.
“When I stand on the field and sing the national anthem, I mean it,” said Vickery.
“It is everything to me and to be captain of your country is a huge honour so when Johnno told me I was disappointed - but at the same time you don’t hang your hat on that.
“If you get hooked up on accolades you are a pretty sad individual.
“I want to play for England and be involved with this team.
“I love playing rugby, I love the game, I love playing for my country. The day that candle burns out, I shall let you all know.”
Vickery was preferred to Stevens this week as England attempt to improve their scrummaging performance from last weekend’s first run-out of the autumn.
Although both players are vying for the same number three jersey, Vickery believes his relationship with Stevens is vital to England’s future.
“If this England team is to progress we have to have a squad of players we can pick from at any given time,” said Vickery.
“We’ve got to have guys vying for positions. You have to always be prepared to be ready for front-line action.
“Matt and I need to push each other. We both realise we’ve got to share the workload and get the best out of each other.
“I am excited. The future of English rugby is very bright.”
Vickery relishes the Anglo-Australian rivalry - perhaps because he has been on the winning side more often than not in recent years.
Australia have only won at Twickenham once in five visits and they also fell to Vickery’s England in their last meeting - the World Cup quarter-final in Marseille last autumn.
England destroyed the Wallaby scrum in 2005 and 2007 but Vickery believes the influence of forwards coach Michael Foley is finally starting to pay off.
“I don’t think there’s any bigger Test match than England-Australia,” said Vickery.
“I grew up as a young man watching Australia and they were always the best in all sports - tennis, golf, shove ha’penny, darts, they are good at everything.
“I’ve watched them a lot since the World Cup and in the Tri-Nations they made huge improvements in their lineout and their scrum.”