Payne set to complete remarkable comeback
February 7, 2008
Tim Payne is used to defying the odds - so replacing England's man-mountain Andrew Sheridan will not daunt him.
Sheridan, arguably the most destructive scrummager in world rugby, will be absent when England continue their RBS 6 Nations campaign against Italy on Sunday.
An abscess adjacent to his right Achilles tendon consigned Sheridan to a Bath hospital, and despite receiving intravenous antibiotics and undergoing minor surgery to drain the infection, he has not recovered in time.
But Sheridan's misfortune has handed Wasps prop Payne an unexpected opportunity opposite one of the finest tightheads around in Italian star Martin Castrogiovanni.
And Payne's selection is a reward for his fierce determination to overcome an injury that shattered all hopes of World Cup recognition.
He required a full knee reconstruction after being hurt during Wasps' Heineken Cup quarter-final victory over Leinster just under 10 months ago.
Payne, though, returned to action almost two months ahead of schedule, before producing consistent performances in the Wasps front-row that underpinned his selection for a sixth cap in Rome this weekend.
He said: ``It is one of the worst injuries you can get, but the physios worked very hard, I worked very hard and I was lucky enough to come back earlier than everyone expected.
``You have got to set yourself goals. I set myself a goal of getting back into the (England) squad, and I knew if you work hard and play to the best of your ability, then hopefully someone is going to watch you.
``I realised as soon as I got off the pitch against Leinster that the World Cup had gone.
``My main aim was to get back playing for my club, and I was lucky enough to be back for the beginning of the season.''
Payne readily accepts his good fortune in playing alongside two revered front-row warriors at Wasps in former France skipper Raphael Ibanez and current England captain Phil Vickery.
He added: ``Raphael, without a shadow of a doubt, is the best hooker I have ever played with.
``You don't get 98 caps for France in that position without being world-class.
``Phil has been there and done it, and he is still doing it. His attitude on and off the field is something I really look up to.
``I am very privileged to play alongside people like Raphael and Phil.''
Sheridan apart, injured quartet Mike Tindall (bruised liver), David Strettle (foot), Lewis Moody (Achilles) and Tom Rees (knee ligament) had already disappeared off the radar for England's Italian job.
Newcastle centre Jamie Noon replaces Tindall in an all-Falcons midfield alongside Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood, with Lesley Vainikolo taking over from Strettle and Bath's Michael Lipman in for Moody.
Rees' place on the bench is filled by Luke Narraway, who drops out of the starting XV following his debut against Wales last weekend and makes way for a fit-again Nick Easter.
England were left reeling by an opening weekend 26-19 loss to Wales at Twickenham, and head coach Brian Ashton said: ``There is a real determination to make sure when we get out on the field on Sunday, for the whole of the game, to see the real England.
``It wasn't the brightest rugby (against Wales). It all happened in six minutes really, from minute 61 to minute 67.
``Seventeen points were scored (by Wales), and I don't think the opposition had to do too much to contribute to them.
``Now it has happened, you can put measures in place to prevent it happening again. You would hope the players have learnt their lessons.
``This team going out to play on Sunday is going out to play some rugby.
``We don't want to end up playing the same game we played against Italy last year, when we played in just a 15-metre channel.''