Interview: Andrew Sheridan
Now a key England player, the 31-year-old loose-head prop is widely regarded as one of the most fearsome front-row men in world rugby. Sheridan was named man-of-the-match in the World Cup Quarter-Final win against Australia in 2007, and was pivotal to England’s journey to the Final. We caught up with him before the 2011 Rugby World Cup
What did you expect the World Cup to be like?
It’s tough to predict and prepare: I was expecting an intense competition of several games in a row. It’s completely different to club rugby, and once you are out of the group stages you have to alter your mindset to deal with the knock-out competition. The pressure and intensity is so high and now I’ve been to one World Cup, I’m sure I can build on that experience and help others.
What are your memories of 2007?
After the disappointing pool game against South Africa (a 36-0 loss) a big group of players spoke with the management and thought: “We all want to give this a decent crack.” We then got a couple of good results and managed to win the quarter-final.
Once you reach the semi-finals you know you are not very far off from being in a World Cup Final and being in a chance where you can win it. At that stage it will be so close, so you have to make sure you get all the little things exactly right. If you are going to win games at that stage it is tiny margins you are dealing with.
Losing the Final was a massive disappointment, but I didn’t feel as though we let ourselves down, as individuals or as a team. We did our very best, but it was not quite good enough and South Africa deservedly won.
The players worked really hard to reach that Final, and Matt Stevens started the banter with song The Gambler, and played it in the changing rooms. He plays the guitar and sings well and everyone joined in—we later released a single!
Where did you watch the 2003 Final?
At my flat in Sale, with my then-girlfriend—she’s now my wife. As an Englishman I was delighted we won.
You are coming back from shoulder injury, how do you cope when you are rehabilitating?
It is frustrating when you get injured. It is just one of those things—you pick up injuries, get over them and move on. Music is a nice hobby for me to have to get away from rugby training and rehab. When you have had a bad injury, and surgery, you have to take small steps along the way to get back to full fitness. When you are coming back from injury you have to take encouragement from the little improvements and stay positive.
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How has Martin Johnson grown into his role as England coach?
We now have a good all-round squad under Martin. And what is really encouraging is that we have a lot of young guys who have come through, who have now played a lot of matches and are looking really good at the highest-level. They have many years ahead of them, too, so that is exciting for English rugby.
How would you rate England’s World Cup chances in New Zealand?
I think everyone is happy as to how things are looking going leading up to the World Cup. It’s looking good in all positions. But the key to our progress at the World Cup is to make sure we don’t look too far ahead—you have to look to your immediate game and hopefully you can progress to the knock-out stages. You have to stick to the basics of your games and your personal responsibilities. And, above all, you have to keep your head at all times.