Fit again Andrew Sheridan relishing New Zealand clash

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The Independent Online

Andrew Sheridan, the strongest man in English rugby, had never before had to cower in the corner of a gym, embarrassed by the size of weights he was having to lift.

But after undergoing a four-hour operation, during which the surgeon broke his drill on Sheridan's shoulder, England's 19-stone loosehead prop could manage nothing more than a bag of sugar.



Sheridan had dislocated his left shoulder when a scrum collapsed in Sale's Heineken Cup game against Cardiff Blues in October 2009.



The Sale medics needed the help of an off-duty specialist, who happened to be at the game as a fan, to prise Sheridan's giant shoulder back into place. He was on oxygen, out for the season and unable even to strum his guitar.



But 13 months on, and driven by a desire to play in big Test matches like Saturday's showdown with New Zealand, Sheridan is back to full strength. From one kilogram mini-weights he is now lifting 60kg dumbbells.



England need Sheridan to harness all that power and deliver one of his best destructive performances - both in the scrum and with ball in hand - against the All Blacks at Twickenham.



"They are a very physical team but I am relishing the opportunity," said Sheridan, who has come back into the England team for Tim Payne.



"The surgeons were always confident I would come back from it but there was extensive damage and it took a lot of time and rehab.



"There was old damage from lots of years of playing and when it dislocated it tore off the rotator cuff. It was a long operation and for the first few weeks afterwards I was struggling.



"The lowest point was probably when I was lifting these one kilogram weights. I would have to wait until everybody had left the gym and I'd keep the lights off and hide in the corner!



"It picked up after a couple of months and I gradually got strength back in it. The chance to get back and play in a big Test like this one was a real carrot."



Sheridan admitted Phil Vickery's injury-enforced retirement last week made him reflect on his own situation, particularly with his shoulder now requiring constant maintenance.



But Vickery's plight has only added to Sheridan's determination and there is no question of the injury inhibiting his performance against a well-drilled All Blacks pack.



He continued: "I am getting older and when you have had major injuries you realise you have to make sure you try and enjoy the games coming up because you may not get another chance.



"Once I am out there playing the shoulder is not on my mind."



When Sheridan regathered the strength to pick up that guitar he put it to good use, recording his debut album entitled 'Where We Go From Here'.



One reviewer on iTunes described the record as "great to chill out to". But there will be nothing laid back about the job he needs to do on Saturday.



England are pinning their hopes of an upset victory on a dominant forwards performance and, as Mike Ford put it, "the best defensive performance of our lives".



Johnson also wants more from Sheridan in loose, to bust holes with his powerful ball-carrying and the England manager said: "We want to use him as effectively as we can in that area."



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