Sunday 17 December 2017

Sheridan recalled to face All Blacks

Mick Cleary

England will make just one change when they name their side today to face New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday, with Sale prop Andrew Sheridan returning after injury in place of Wasps loosehead Tim Payne.

There was talk of restoring Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley to the front row, but Steve Thompson has held off the challenge of his younger rival as England put faith in the bulk of the side that pulled off a notable 21-20 win over Australia in Sydney in June. Hartley missed that tour because of a knee injury, having been first-choice No 2 for England throughout the Six Nations.

Continuity of selection has not been a hallmark of the Martin Johnson regime as either injury or circumstance has forced his hand. It was always clear that Sheridan would return if he showed he had recovered from last year's shoulder operations.

Sheridan (31) suffered a dislocation to his left shoulder when a scrum caved in on him during Sale's Heineken Cup game against Cardiff Blues in October 2009. A four-hour operation put that to rights. It was felt that as he was to be on the sidelines for at least six months, Sheridan might as well have his right shoulder sorted out as well.

It had been hoped that he would be fit to play by the end of last season but that deadline was pushed into the summer to ensure that he came back in good order.

Sheridan won the last of his 32 caps against Scotland in the 2009 Six Nations. He went on the Lions tour to South Africa that summer, backing up Wales prop Gethin Jenkins, although he started the final Test against the Springboks.

England's backline will be unchanged, with Kiwi-born centre Shontayne Hape, possibly lining up against a former New Zealand rugby league team-mate, Sonny Bill Williams, who is in the All Blacks party. The pair were on the Kiwi tour to the UK in 2004.

Williams is the only uncapped player in the squad and has been fast-tracked through after returning to New Zealand following a lucrative sojourn at Toulon alongside Jonny Wilkinson.

New Zealand, who have a doubt over wing Cory Jane, name their side on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Wales could face the full might of the Robbie Deans' All Blacks destroyers in Cardiff on Saturday.

Wallabies coach Deans revealed yesterday a clean bill of health among his squad, despite the game's punishing nature in Hong Kong on Saturday, when Australia prevailed 26-24 in an epic encounter. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

England (v New Zealand) -- B Foden; M Cueto, M Tindall, S Hape, C Ashton; T Flood, B Youngs; A Sheridan, S Thompson, D Cole; C Lawes, T Palmer; T Croft, L Moody (capt), N Easter.

Irish Independent

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