England lose Sheridan for Six Nations

Prop to miss at least first three matches of campaign after undergoing surgery
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The England manager Martin Johnson has been dealt yet another huge injury blow after learning that prop Andrew Sheridan will miss the start of the Six Nations following surgery on his injured shoulder.

Sheridan will undergo a full reconstruction of his left shoulder tomorrow after incurring the damage during a collapsed scrum in Sale's Heineken Cup victory over Cardiff Blues on Friday night. The destructive 29-year-old Lions loose head will play no part in England's autumn internationals, and has little chance of being fit to face Wales, Italy and Ireland in the Six Nations in February. Instead, he must concentrate on returning to the squad for the fixtures against Scotland away on 13 March and in France a week later.

Johnson is now missing 11 players for the autumn internationals against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand, several of whom are also doubts to recover in time for the Six Nations. The wounded include Toby Flood (knee), Danny Cipriani (fractured fibia), Simon Shaw (toe), Delon Armitage (shoulder) and Riki Flutey (shoulder).

Sheridan is a key man in the England set-up, having won 32 caps, including 21 of England's last 28 Tests. He also made two Test appearances for the Lions during the summer tour to South Africa.

The Bath hooker Lee Mears will also miss England's autumn Tests because of the knee injury he sustained in the defeat by Ulster 11 days ago. The 30-year-old damaged medial ligaments in his left knee and will be out of action for six to eight weeks.

Sheridan sustained his injury seven minutes before the end of a 27-26 victory that breathed new life into Sale's Heineken Cup ambitions. The collapsed scrum resulted in a penalty against the Blues but Sheridan, who had impressed throughout the game, stayed down and required oxygen.

The Sale director of rugby, Kingsley Jones, said yesterday: "Andrew is a great presence around our team and he will be missed. It's bad news for Andrew, England and Sale Sharks, and we just have to come to terms with it."

Thierry Dusautoir has been handed the France captaincy on a permanent basis to replace Lionel Nallet. The 27-year-old flanker had already stood in for Nallet while he was injured for Les Bleus' winter tour of Australia and New Zealand. Nallet missed that tour because of a rib injury and in his absence Dusautoir, who has made 25 appearances for his country, led his side to their first victory over the All Blacks in New Zealand for 15 years – a 27-22 triumph in Dunedin.

The France coach, Marc Lièvremont, admitted he could not look past the Toulouse flanker, who made his France debut against Romania in 2006. "The deciding factor was the rise of Thierry Dusautoir during the past two years, which has been fairly consistent," Lièvremont said. "I feel this is a key period, with a settled group. We're going to work towards the World Cup and Thierry has the stature to take the role."