2013 British & Irish Lions
Sheridan plays down Lions chances
ESPN Staff
December 15, 2012
Toulon's Andrew Sheridan charges forward, Sale Sharks v Toulon, Heineken Cup, Salford City Stadium, England, December 8, 2012
Former England international Andrew Sheridan has enjoyed an injury-free run since swapping the Premiership for the Top 14 © Getty Images

Former England international Andrew Sheridan does not expect to make a return to the international stage with the British & Irish Lions next year.

The 33-year-old prop won the last of his 42 Test caps at the 2011 Rugby World Cup where the latest of a succession of shoulder injuries brought a premature end to his tournament. A subsequent move from Premiership side Sale Sharks to French Top 14 giants Toulon then appeared to end his chances of further international honours due to England's strict stance on not selecting overseas-based players.

However, a return to top form and a rare injury-free run has seen the loose-head tipped for a second Lions tour having tackled South Africa in 2009. But having seen England coach Stuart Lancaster adopt a youthful selection policy he acknowledges that his chances of forcing his way into the Lions reckoning are remote.

"I'm not an envious person and I don't get bitter,' he told the Daily Mail. "I'm a proud Englishman so I want England to do well. I knew the situation when I signed for Toulon. I know it is unlikely that they would pick people who are playing overseas. Even if I had stayed in England, Stuart Lancaster has looked to pick a younger side.

"My chances of playing for England again are remote. They've got a good batch of young props already performing well at that level. They would have to have quite a few injuries and find themselves really scraping the bottom of the barrel to get to me again! If I was asked, I wouldn't say no, but that is very unlikely. As for the Lions, I won't be involved in international rugby and there are good props all over Britain and Ireland, so that is highly unlikely, too."

The Toulon climate clearly agrees with Sheridan who has been able to put his catalogue of injury woes behind him with the help of the Mediterranean sunshine - much like his team-mate Jonny Wilkinson.

"I've played in all 17 matches so far,' he told the newspaper. "I've had the odd little niggle, but I'm getting old so that is inevitable! It's been great to get a run of games week after week, because I spent a lot of time in the previous three years on the operating table.

"That led to long periods of rehab, which were frustrating, so hopefully this period of playing consistently can continue. I can't say for sure why my luck has changed, but the climate helps. It's starting to get cold now though - I've had to cover up the pool and I haven't been able to go in the sea for a while!"

Toulon currently lead the Top 14 and will look to preserve their unbeaten start to the Heineken Cup against Sale on Sunday. But their success on the domestic stage could provide another barrier to the Lions tour for the likes of Sheridan and Wilkinson.

The Top 14 final is scheduled for June 1 - the same day as the first match of the Lions' tour in Hong Kong - and while leaving the selection door open, Lions boss Warren Gatland wants the squad to depart for Australia together.

"If we take the France-based players, our preferred option is that they are on the plane with us," said Gatland. "We know what a quality player Jonny is. He is out of international rugby but he is playing in a side that is winning, and he is definitely one we are keeping an eye on.

"The most difficult thing is we will be getting the squad together for almost the first time on the plane. But if you look at guys at Toulon for example, they could be playing in a final the same day as our first game in Hong Kong. So it is going to be difficult to integrate them and get them to be a part of the tour.

"It is not something we need to commit to now, and we will look at the strength-in-depth in certain positions, and injuries, but the idea is to have everyone on the plane together."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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