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Last Updated: Monday, 14 November 2005, 09:17 GMT
Unlikely hero
By Simon Austin

It's the unwritten contract every front-row forward enters into - to put in all the hard graft so others can take the glory.

Only it wasn't quite like that at Twickenham on Saturday.

England beat Australia 26-16 and everyone was excitedly talking about the performance of a loose-head prop after the game.

SHERIDAN FACTFILE
Andrew Sheridan
Age: 26
Club: Sale Sharks
Height: 6ft 5ins
Weight: 18st 10 lbs
Caps: 2
Hobbies: Writing/performing country and folk songs
"Andy Sheridan had a top game, he really did. He's been waiting for this occasion for a long time and really hit the ground running," enthused England coach Andy Robinson.

His Australian counterpart, Eddie Jones, ruefully agreed.

"Sheridan led the way. He put enormous pressure on his side of the scrum and we didn't cope with him at all."

The Sale forward was named the official man of the match and it was difficult to find anyone who disagreed.

The 26-year-old gave his opposite number, Al Baxter, such a torrid time in the scrum that the Australian resorted to collapsing them and was sin-binned with 10 minutes to go.

Matt Dunning then had to switch sides to face the massive Sale man and was soon stretchered off the field, thankfully without having sustained a serious injury.

Sheridan was also awesome in the loose, carrying with pace and power.

Not bad for a man making his first start for his country after one previous appearance as a substitute.

Sheridan's personality is starkly at odds with his huge and imposing physique.

Phil Vickery, Steve Thompson and Andrew Sheridan
Sheridan's presence seemed to galvanise Vickery and Thompson

He is shy and softly spoken and his hobbies include writing and performing his own country and folk songs.

When journalists crowded round him in the Twickenham press room after Saturday's match, he was clearly uncomfortable being the centre of the attention.

When asked about his colossal performance, he simply said: "It was a good start and I enjoyed it.

"I went into it and thought, 'I'm going to enjoy this', and once the game began it was good to get stuck in."

The England coaching staff will be rather more effusive about the debut of the big Sale man and the possibilities he brings to the team.

England have struggled to find an effective front-row combination during Robinson's tenure and Sheridan seemed to galvanise Steve Thompson and Phil Vickery on Saturday.

Both men have struggled for form and fitness since the World Cup, but gave arguably their best international performances since 2003.

England have also lacked a dynamic ball carrier since the international retirement of Lawrence Dallaglio, so Sheridan's influence away from the scrum will be appreciated as well.

Amazingly, the Sale forward is in only his fourth season as a prop. He started his career as a lock, before being converted to the front row at Bristol.

He moved to the Sharks in September 2003 and his performances for them have gained rave reviews almost ever since.

Sheridan was selected for this summer's Lions tour to New Zealand and impressed before a fractured fibula meant he missed out on the Tests.

Some had doubted his ability to sustain 80 minutes at the international level, but these were answered resoundingly on Saturday.

Yet the big test will come next week. Australia's front row was inexperienced and inept. New Zealand's is not.

Sheridan could find himself up against Carl Hayman, whom he got the better of when the Lions played New Zealand Maori this summer.

If he repeats that performance, Sheridan could really be the unlikely new star of English rugby.




SEE ALSO
England 26-16 Australia
12 Nov 05 |  Internationals
Sheridan display delights Vickery
14 Nov 05 |  Internationals
Josh Lewsey's column
12 Nov 05 |  Internationals


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