Tug-of-war over Sheridan

2007-11-27 00:00

Yesterday evening, the Barbarians announced a 22-man squad that includes a liberal smattering of both current and recent international players from seven different countries, including South Africa. Two Stormers players, Peter Grant and Schalk Brits, will turn out for the Barbarians.

However, a tug-of-war has developed over Andrew Sheridan’s selection in the front-row. Early yesterday Sheridan’s club Sale sent out a press release saying that the powerful England prop would not be released to play for the Barbarians, and would instead be selected to his club team for Friday night’s game between the Sale Sharks and the Leicester Tigers.

However, Sheridan’s agent, Mike Burton, responded that this would be a breach of the new contract that his client signed with the club only last Wednesday, and has hinted that Sale could risk losing the England prop’s services if they continue to be difficult over the issue.

“The contract Andrew signed with the club last Wednesday contains an unconditional clause that he would be released to play for the Barbarians against the South Africans on Saturday” said Burton.

“Clearly the club could be in breach of contract. I will be discussing the matter with Andrew tomorrow [today] and the final decision will be his, and his alone.”

Bok props Jannie du Plessis and CJ van der Linde, both of whom may be in line to face Sheridan as Van der Linde tends to alternate between loosehead and tighthead, will doubtless be pleased if the England kingpin is not playing.

The Barbarians started gathering in London yesterday, but the team will only be finalised at lunch-time today. There is also doubt over Mark Regan, the England hooker named as captain of the team, because his club Bristol are also not happy with him playing.

If the hooker is withdrawn, then it is likely that Schalk Brits will start the game, possibly facing his Stormers teammate Tiaan Liebenberg in the latter’s first match in the Springbok jersey.

Otherwise it is a strong Barbarians team, with Brits one of only two players who has not been capped at international level.

The squad includes All Blacks Joe Rokocoko, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Troy Flavell and Jerry Collins and, together with Aussies such as Matt Giteau and Rocky Elsom, they will be wanting to exact a modicum of revenge for the fact their teams were dumped out of the World Cup so early.

If there are no withdrawals, the Barbarians could select a potent backline, with former All Black Justin Marshall down to play scrumhalf, Giteau likely to play flyhalf and the Kiwi duo of Nonu and Smith well equipped to form a potent midfield combination. Of course, Grant can play either flyhalf or inside centre if he comes onto the field as a replacement.

Outside of them is the powerful and pacy running of Rokocoko, while Jason Robinson is still in the Barbarians squad despite rumours that he may withdraw, on medical advice, due to his troublesome shoulder.

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