Sheridan Aka The Strongest Man in English Rugby. A 6ft 5in, 19st loose-head so powerful team-mate Josh Lewsey said, only half in jest, he could have ripped limbs off if had he wanted to.
He already had a reputation in Australian eyes even before he packed down against Guy Shepherdson in the 2007 World Cup quarterfinal. By the time Shepherdson and his replacement Al Baxter had been squeezed out of the scrum mincer and the Wallabies spat out of the World Cup in a stunning shock result Sheridan, the man of the match, was the new Douglas Jardine Down Under.
The quietly-spoken Sheridan is a semi-retired wine connoisseur living the good life just outside Toulon now but he will be in London to watch the re-match with family today. He will have a bottle or two at the ready in anticipation of another England quarterfinal win – but he anticipates that 12 years on it will be a different scrum story.
“The scrum might have been perceived as an area of weakness for the Aussies once but you couldn’t say it was an area of weakness for the Aussies now. Australia have an impressive scrum. I rate it,” said Sheridan.
“I thought they were unfortunate to be penalised against Wales and I would imagine it will be quite a tight contest up front. England have a good scrum but I would surprised if they completely dominate the Australians.
“It’s a different set of circumstances all round this time. This England team are a lot more consistent side than we were and they are going in as favourites with a different mindset.
“Back in 2007 we had won a couple of games to get to the quarter-final but had been drubbed 36-0 by South Africa in the pool stages and we weren’t expected to do particularly well against Australia. One newspaper had us down as the worst England team of all time.
“We had been written off against a good Australia team so to then go through to the semi-final was one of the standout times that I was involved in with England.”
Centre Mike Catt had been so convinced England would be knocked out he told his daughter on the phone before the game that he would be home to see her on Monday.
“The mentality we had was just to give it our best shot,” said Sheridan. “We weren’t expected to win and in that situation you tend to be far more relaxed.
“There was a question of pride as well representing your country in a World Cup quarterfinal. You’re not going to go out there and just roll over.
“And although we were under no illusions that we were a consistent side we still had decent players.”
The key to knocking Australia out of their thoroughbred stride was the scrum and the key to the scrum was the front row of Sheridan, Phil Vickery and in between them a hooker who could out-sledge even Australia, Mark ‘Ronnie’ Regan.
The Wallabies were in constant retreat, had nothing to play off and were beaten 12-10. Sheridan, the prop who could bench press 33st, was named of the match. The legend of The Strongest Man in English Rugby was born.
“I certainly didn’t covet that. I was asked at the time ‘what do you lift?’ and I gave the answer,” he said.
Sheridan still pumps a little iron, but his life is a more rounded blend of walking and wine these days with fatherhood and a little Rugby World Cup thrown in.
He has seen enough from Australia to concern him but not enough to convince him that it will be England who prevail at the quarter-final stage again.
“I think England will win by between three and six points,” he said.
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